The International Film Festival FEST officially opened for the 48th time. The opening ceremony was held at the Sava Centre, where the Festival's honorary guests walked the red carpet, and Jelena Gavrilovic and Igor Djordjevic introduced the audience to another edition of the biggest domestic film festival.
The ceremony was complemented by the Serbian Police Orchestra, as well as Jelena Gavrilovic's impressive vocals, who performed several songs, including ‘Djelem, djelem’. An In-memoriam video was also shown to pay tribute to all our dear colleagues and film greats who have left us in the past year.
Jugoslav Pantelic, artistic director of FEST, addressed the audience with the following words: ‘Films cease to be only entertainment when people grow up, and it seems to me that the majority of those present in this room stopped experiencing film only as entertainment at FEST. There are many new authors who deserve your attention with their courage, whether it is an author's expression or a choice of topic. Therefore, at the beginning of the 48th FEST, I can invite you to spend as much time in the cinema watching carefully selected films as possible and for as long as possible. FEST has a fantastic tradition, its future is the same, and whether or not the present is the same, you will decide after the Festival is over. In my opinion, it is exactly that.’
This year's FEST is marked by Bekim Fehmiu, one of the greatest actors from this region. His son, Uliks Fehmiu, officially opened the Festival.
‘When I was informed that the Festival Board and the Art Director were eager to honor my father's artistic work, my heart was full. Bekim's attitude towards the act of creation was almost religious, similar to the attitude of the faithful towards the temple. He honestly thought that art could change the world, make a person better, ennoble him. He believed that art gave us the opportunity to speak on behalf of those whose voice is rarely heard. And then he lost faith in both man and the healing power of his profession. He was 51, as I have now, when he decided to leave the scene and go into silence. He decided to withdraw from public life in protest against the epidemic of nationalism that had invaded this region, because he knew that hatred was the most dangerous virus that spreads the fastest and is the most difficult to stop. His Geiger counter was very sensitive, and unfortunately completely correct. Of course, an artist cannot do without art, he merely replaced life in front of an audience by writing in solitude, from which two books were created which he thought to be the most important thing he left to us. The artist's need to ask questions, testify and comment on the world he lives in is similar to our need for air.’
Mira Banjac, a legend of the Serbian theatre, was this year's winner of the Belgrade Victor Award for outstanding contribution to film art. The entire Sava Centre stood up to greet the esteemed actress with a long applause and a standing ovation, and she thanked with a touching speech:
‘It is a great honor to receive the award from the hands of one Fehmiu. Having received this beautiful symbol, I would like to thank, first of all, Belgrade for accepting me as my fellow citizen, where I found my rightful place. Thanks to the people who thought I should be there with those who have received this great recognition before me, they are significant and great people. I just ran after the acting greats, and I ran a lot to close this cross of mine tonight. Through this enigma called the film, which I have not figured out to date, the directors have made an immeasurable contribution. Thanks to the screenwriters who sometimes found a meaningful place for me. Thanks to the actors without whom I am nothing, who are my only real family. In the life of an actor media is inevitable, thank you to television, radio, critics, press, and thank you to friends who stayed with me until the end, and thank you to the life that gave me this big and solemn day for me, which I wish to share with you with love and gratitude.’
‘Straight from the overhaul,’ Mira joked, receiving the statuette of the Belgrade Victor from the hands of Uliks Fehmiu.
After the opening ceremony, the film Father, directed by Srdan Golubovic, was screened.
The 48th FEST will run through March 8, with over 100 films screened in eight halls across Belgrade.