Balkan Film Week 2024

from 4 March 2024 | UT Connewitz | Free admission
#bfw24 #traduki #utconnewitz

Balkan (film) between resistance and resilience

Marija Katalinić

Credits: private

Resilience is often used in connection to two notions, power and material. The action implies when a force is exercised or applied against another matter, without being able to permanently change its substance. One of its definitions offered by Cambridge dictionary states resilience as ‘’the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed.’’

Leading from here, I propose thinking about resilience in relation to corporality and its capacity to sustain under difficult environments and conditions. Corpus here directly translates to human bodies and their capacity to bend, and move, but regain their composure. The category of vulnerability that ascribes the body’s materiality is a focus of investigation in the volume ‘’Vulnerability in Resistance’’, edited by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay. In the book, the authors investigate ways of mobilizing personal and collective urgencies to reframe the vulnerable in relation to being resistant. As Sarah Bracke in the volume writes that “resilience, in short, is a powerful idea whose deployment spans the macro-level of ecological and economic systems to the micro level of selves, and the complex circuits of power that connect and constitute these different levels of social reality”[1]. Although the author discusses resilience as a mobilizing neoliberal mechanism in relation to social categories, such as gender, the resilience is positioned in relation to resistance. Unlike resilience, where matter jumps back into shape after a pressured influence, resistance implies, as the Cambridge dictionary suggests, ‘’the act of fighting against something that is attacking you, or refusing to accept something’’ or ‘’a force that acts to stop the progress of something or make it slower’’ or ‘’a situation in which people or organizations fight against something or refuse to accept or be changed by something’’. Therefore, to resist is an act to counter, while resilience signifies endurance.

Both categories, resistance and resilience, assist in thinking about the Balkan films and their choice to focus on the ways the bodies have been resisting under the historical socio-political rhythm and its leftover consequences. The characters that mirror the region’s inhabitants, although resilient do not all rebound from their initial states, minds nor bodies. Some get locked in the different form, shifted, and bent. Continuing from Bracke: ‘’In precarious times, resilience is the new security[2].’’ For the Balkans, resilience is a virtue one is born into. When in this year’s film ‘’Museum of the Revolution’’ the main protagonist expresses her desire to become a butterfly by saying “If I need to walk, I fly instead. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I fly”, she brings on a powerful way of dealing with her weighty life. Metaphorically, she aspires to resist the conditions she bears by transforming herself and the women that surround her.

This year, Balkan Film Week honours all alive that serve as monuments to resilience in their everyday as well as joint historical battles, but also those who passed away. The resilience that Balkan inhabitants embody historically, is opposite from generalisation or exoticism that has been stamped on its collective body. This year’s films talk about resilience, and also resistance, in form of revolutions, governmental but also personal, and the entwining spaces between these two scopes: affecting, twisting and conditioning. In this respect, the festival opens with Srđan Keča and Vlad Petri’s films that offer a lens between these two categories. The second day of the festival opens with topics surrounding heritage and its resilient persistence that holds its shape through time. How do we work with tradition? Is loyalty to tradition inadequate, can it be resisted or reformatted, and if so, how can the conditions be negotiated? The tradition cannot, or maybe even should not, be destroyed. However, how this conversation is negotiated is shown through examples provided by the directors Smirna Kulenović, Vincent Moon and Fatime Kosumi, as well as Marija Zidar. The third day of the festival brings the notion of resilience back to the human body, and to the experience of pain, but also in connection to community in general, as well as to family in detail. Understanding the human connection as one of the most resilient notions, we turn to the awarded stories by Marko Šantić and Juraj Lerotić. The final day of the festival adds a note of humour to the matter, and to the weighty social conditions under which the characters of the films ‘’Secret Ingredient’’ and ‘’Blaga’s Lessons’’ resist, i.e. operate under. In these films, the directors Gjorce Stavreski and Stephan Komandarev display ways in which the movies’ protagonists, even as they are affected by their political and social state of affairs, manage to move around, and against the obstacles.

We humans have an insatiable desire to live and sustain. The movements that human bodies make, strive to express a range of emotions. Creativity, the force through which the human condition resists, expands and collects all on their journey. Whether by transforming into butterflies, raising fists in the air, hurting their bodies to feel, being heard through a song, or by making films, the power to express resists and transforms as we move through different ebbs of life.

[1] Bracke, Sarah. ‘’Bouncing Back. Vulnerability and Resistance in Times of Resilience.’’ Vulnerability in Resistance, edited by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2016, p.52.

[2] Bracke, Sarah, ‘’Bouncing Back. Vulnerability and Resistance in Times of Resilience’’ in Vulnerability in Resistance. Edited by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2016, p.57.

This year’s – now already sixth – Balkan Film Week will take place from 4 to 7 March 2024.

The Balkan Film Week is part of the TRADUKI project and a cinematic introduction to the diverse literary programme at the Leipzig Book Fair. Spread over four days, we will be presenting films that focus on the topic of resilience. As in previous years, the programme was curated by Marija Katalinić.

All film screenings will take place at the UT Connewitz. Admission is free.

Exposé by Marija Katalinić

4 March 2024

5 March 2024

6 March 2024

7 March 2024

Monday 4 March

  • 19:00
    Between Revolutions + pre-recorded Q&A
    UT Connewitz

    RO/QA/IR/HR 2023, Vlad Petri, 69', Documentary Film, Original with English Subtitles

    In the 1970s, an Iranian student named Zahra meets a fellow student called Maria at university in Bucharest. When the revolution against the Shah breaks out in 1979, Zahra goes back to Iran, moved by the hope of political transformation, although disappointments are quick to follow. Zahra never ends up returning to Romania. Over the next decades, Zahra and Maria exchange countless letters. Romania is not to remain untouched by revolution either. Separated, their correspondence depicts two women struggling to conform to societal stereotypes and grappling with their profound feelings for each other, which seem to stretch beyond simple friendship.

  • 21:30
    Museum of the Revolution
    UT Connewitz

    CZ/RS/HR 2021, Srđan Keča, 91', Documentary Film, Original with German Subtitles

    The words are a reference to the 1961 plan to build a grand museum in Belgrade as a tribute to Socialist Yugoslavia. The derelict building now tells a very different story from the one envisioned by the initiators 60 years ago. In the damp, pitch-dark building live the outcasts of a society reshaped by capitalism. The film focuses on a girl and two women. Against the background of a transforming city, the three women find refuge in each other.

Tuesday 5 March

  • 19:00
    Kangë e Defa: Female Rhapsody in Kosovo
    Our Family Garden
    UT Connewitz

    Kangë e Defa: Female Rhapsody in Kosovo
    DE/XK 2014, Vincent Moon, Fatime Kosumi, 29', Documentary Film, Original with English Subtitles

    Our Family Garden
    BIH 2022, Smirna Kulenović, 40', Documentary Film, Original with English Subtitles

    Kangë e Defa: Female Rhapsody in Kosovo

    «Kangë e Defa» is an exploration of female rhapsodies across Kosovo. A poetic road trip, a collage of stories, of characters, of music. And more than anything else, a celebration of Kosovo’s women.

    Our Family Garden

    Our Family Garden is a powerful documentary that follows the journey of 100 women who came together in August 2021 to plant 1000 calendula plants in abandoned war trenches on the front line of defence on Zlatište hill, Sarajevo. The women, survivors of the siege, reject constant victimization and instead choose peace and solidarity with all kinds of life in the traumatized ecosystem.

  • 21:00
    UT Connewitz

    SLO/RS/MNE/XK 2021, Marija Zidar, 82', Documentary Film, Original with English Subtitles

    An 18-year-old girl is killed in a bitter family feud in the Albanian highlands. Her bereaved father is torn by the pressures from a local bishop and an NGO chairman from the capital, not only to forgive the imprisoned killer and his family but to reconcile with them – as the age-old tribal code, Kanun, once required. A poignant and insightful account of a patriarchal society caught between a lingering past and a precarious present.

Wednesday 6 March

  • 19:00
    Wake Me
    UT Connewitz

    SLO/HR/RS/F 2022, Marko Šantić, 85', Feature Film, Original with English Subtitles

    Rok suffers from loss of memory, a consequence of an attack which erases his idealistic life by a lakeside town. Upon returning to his hometown he once more faces his past and a xenophobic group of friends, with which now identifies his younger brother.

  • 21:00
    Safe Place
    UT Connewitz

    HR 2022, Juraj Lerotić, 102', Feature Film, Original with English Subtitles

    A traumatic event – a suicide attempt – creates a rift in a family’s everyday existence. Their lives fundamentally change, as if they are waging a war invisible to everyone else. The source of the story is autobiographical. This is addressed in the film and highlighted by the fact that the director plays himself.

Thursday 7 March

  • 19:00
    Secret Ingredient
    UT Connewitz

    MK/GR 2017, Gjorce Stavreski, 104', Feature Film, Original with English Subtitles

    Vele lives in the outskirts of Skopje in an apartment with his father Sazdo who is suffering from an aggressive form of lung cancer. Vele is trying to help him, but, unfortunately, he can not afford to buy him the expensive medicine he needs. On the quest to help his ailing father, he decides on using a special secret ingredient.

  • 21:00
    Blaga's Lessons
    UT Connewitz

    BG/D 2023, Stephan Komandarev, 114', Feature Film, Original with German Subtitles

    Blaga is a seventy-year-old recently widowed former teacher and a woman of firm morals. When telephone scammers con her out of the money that she had saved for her husband’s grave, her moral compass slowly begins to lose its bearings.


  • Between Revolutions

    RO/QA/IR/HR 2023, Vlad Petri, 69', Documentary, Original with English subtitles

  • Museum of the Revolution

    CZ/RS/HR 2021, Srđan Keča, 91', Documentary, Original with German subtitles

  • Our Family Garden

    BIH 2022, Smirna Kulenović, 40', Documentary, Original with English subtitles

  • Reconciliation

    SLO/RS/MNE/XK 2021, Marija Zidar, 82', Documentary, Original with English subtitles

  • Wake Me

    SLO/HR/SRB/F 2022, Marko Šantić, 85', Feature Film, Original with English subtitles

  • Safe Place

    HR 2022, Juraj Lerotić, 102', Feature Film, Original with English subtitles

  • Secret Ingredient

    MK/GR 2017, Gjorce Stavreski, 104', Feature Film, Original with English subtitles

  • Blaga's Lessons

    BG/D 2023, R: Stephan Komandarev, 114', Feature Film, Original with German subtitles

Thank you to all distributors and especially UT Connewitz

Programme Curator: Marija Katalinić | Project Manager: Barbara Anderlič | Illustration: Lea Zupančič | Postcard: Janett Andrejewski | Website: Matthew Morete

Looking Back

Want to find out more about past Balkan Film Week editions? Check out the links below: