SARAJEVO--A documentary about the close ties that grew between Sarajevo rock musicians and the Irish band U2 during the Bosnian capital's 1992-1995 siege has opened the city's annual film festival, with U2 members Bono and The Edge as star guests.
The Sarajevo Film Festival, which was founded towards the end of the Bosnian war by a group of film enthusiasts, has become southeastern Europe's largest such event, showcasing 235 films this year. Produced by Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, "Kiss the Future" depicts the determination of young Sarajevo musicians to find an escape from the horrors of war by putting on rock concerts in the basement of the Academy of Performing Arts. U2 - one of the world's most popular bands at the time - became involved after an aid worker persuaded them to carry live satellite link-ups with Sarajevo during their European concert tour in 1993. After the end of the Bosnian war, in 1997, U2 staged a huge concert in Sarajevo, which Bono ended by urging the crowd to "Kiss the Future".
The basement of the drama academy was also used as an impromptu wartime cinema, showing films smuggled into the city by foreign visitors and with details of upcoming screenings spread by word of mouth. Anxious to keep moviegoers safe, organisers dug a hole in the wall for the audience to enter the basement without being exposed to snipers. "Culture was one of the main things that gave us the power to survive that period," said Mirsad Purivatra, a founder of both the wartime cinema and the Sarajevo Film Festival. He described how people would pack into the basement to attend cultural events and meet friends, rushing home before curfew.
Images of filmgoers and the underground rock shows by photographer Milomir Kovacevic Strasni are being displayed for an exhibition taking place to mark the 30th anniversary of the Apollo wartime cinema as part of the film festival. "These photographs are, of course, witnesses of the time and about those people and the friendship," he told Reuters. "You can't tag a price on it, it's precious."