The annual Let’sCEE film festival takes place in Vienna from March 21–27, showcases over 140 films and brings together nine countries of the Central and Eastern European region.

The Urania Kino glowed with a promise of a great night ahead, as a crowd gathered early in anticipation of the festival’s start. Excited for a magnificent lineup – and the all-too-familiar sound of endless Slavic consonant clusters – I made a beeline for the door, closely examining today’s program.

What struck me at the onset was the very ease and simplicity surrounding the occasion. Actors, directors and producers all mingle freely, chatting, sampling fancy baguette hors d’oeuvre only minutes before their chefs d’oeuvre are projected on the big screen. One big Central European family, it seems to me.

Among them was Danis Tanović, an Oscar-winning film producer and screenwriter from Bosnia, whose feature film Death in Sarajevo tells a piercing story.

A century after his assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia, today’s Bosnians are still asking themselves “Was Gavrilo Princip a terrorist or a hero?”

Souvenirs of War

Instead of burying the hatchet and “leaving the discussion to the historians,” says Tanović, the preoccupation/obsession with this infamous event permeates every level of society, inhibiting its advancement. In Bosnia of today, cries Tanović, “Gavrilo would probably kill himself.”

The 2016 film is based upon Hotel Europe by Bernard Henri-Lévy. Unlike the French philosopher’s 2014 play – a long monologue about the Bosnian conflict – Death in Sarajevo follows the accounts of several protagonists.

Tanović ingeniously makes use of the layered building architecture by juxtaposing it to the fragmented society outside. The basement mafia, the bitter working class heroes contemplating a revolution and the authority figures constantly meet in the middle, finally leading to pandemonium, and a repeat of the century-old event.

Shrill and unpleasant, the drama is an allegorical warning of what might come to pass if Bosnia should keep so focused on its past.

 


 

Death in Sarajevo (Smrt u Sarajevu) [2016]

Written and directed by Danis Tanović

in Bosnian, French, & English with English subtitles

Final festival screening: Mar 26, 20:15 at Actors Studio 3, 1., Tuchlauben 13

 

Catch some silver screen secrets at the Let’s CEE Film Festival