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Lights, Camera, Peace, as film production returns to Sarajevo

Story and Photos by Jim Bartlett, Editor in Chief

Feature Filming in the Streets of Sarajevo

Recently I got to witness a little slice of Sarajevo history in the making, the first feature film to be shot in Sarjevo since the war. The film is called "Perfect Circle" and is being made possible by a number of firms, both foreign and domestic.
"Perfect Circle" is directed by Ademir Kenovic, co-founder of SaGA, the Sarajevo Group of Authors. The other firms involved include Mimosa Films (Paris), Argus Film Produktie (Amsterdam), Objektiv Filmstudio (Budapest) and various national cultural organizations.

The night we went to the set was cold and snowing, but not enough to put a damper on the spirit of the crews and spectators who gathered to watch. There seemed to be an electricity in the air, lively chatter and a sort of controled chaos among the lights and grip trucks. The press was out in force and cameramen and photographers moved here and there, and unlike the later stages of the seige, were warmly welcomed. Finally, something good to report.

An hour or so went by while the final preperations were being made. Camera angles checked, sound equipment checked, lighting adjusted and readjusted, and a fire lit in a dumpster for that "seige" effect. When all was ready, an expectant hush came over the crowd with only the sound of the wind in the falling snow after the call for "quiet on the set" was sung out several times in Bosnian.

The first run-through was only a rehersal. Three principal characters, a man and two children, rounding a corner and walking up a steeply sloping street to enter a small cottage, lit from the interior by a gelled hot lamp. That took only a few minutes and after some adjustments, the call for quiet went out again. This was the real thing and everyone held their breath as the camera began to roll. Again, the whole affair was brief yet infinite, and when the director called out "Stop!" (Bosnian, for "cut") spontanious applause and cheering broke out.

Everyone seemed to be hugging, cheering and clapping. Even the press corps was in on it and I gave a rebel yell to add to the occasion. An overwhelming sense of joy, accomplishment, and relief filled the air with everyone slapping backs and hugs all around. Out of nowhere apeared trays of Pivo (beer), Loza (Bosnian vodka), and little sandwiches. The set was instantly tranformed into one big street party and even one little boy's dismayed statement about how could this be a Sarajevo seige movie without any shooting, brought howls of laughter.

During all this I had the chance to talk to the director and grab a little background information on the film and his organization, SaGA. Ademir Kenovic turned out to be a tall, dashing man who interestingly enough began his film career at Dennison University in Ohio in 1972. He has been a leading figure in Yugoslav and European film circles ever since, producing all manner of audio visuals for Sarajevo TV and other companies since '76 and becoming a professor at the Academy of Film and Theatre in Sarajevo in 1989.

Director Ademir KenovicHis work has been featured at Cannes, Tokyo, Montreal, San Francisco and New York. His film "Man, God, the Monster," shot during the seige by Kenovic and three other Sarajevo producers opened the "Director's Fortnight" in Cannes in 1994 and won high praise for it's content, concept, and asthetics.

His current project, "Perfect Circle" chronicles the life of a poet and two orphaned refugee children as they struggle to overcome the hardships of wartime Sarajevo. The children come to the city from an ethnicly clensed village in eastern Bosnia and wander through the streets of Sarajevo until stumbleing upon the partment the poet shares with his wife and daughter. He takes them in, and after sending his own family out of Sarajevo and to safety on a evacuation convoy, shares their lonliness and struggle to survive.

Of the work he said, "This film is about how a simple and small human being, living in a city surrounded by a killing machine, being dead and alive at the same time, becomes immortal."

A lot like Sarajevo itself.

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