Organizers of the Sarajevo Film Fesitval, which was set to be one of the first international film festivals to take place in a meaningful physical form this summer, have made a late decision to shift the event entirely to online after a spike of infections in Bosnia.
The fest had been due to take place August 14 – 21 in the Bosnian capital and the team have been bullish for months that it would be able to stage events in person despite widespread cancellations on the circuit. Less than two weeks ago, it unveiled its line-up and jury, which was set to be led in-person by The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius. The industry-focused CineLink program had already been set for an online edition due to travel complications.
Unfortunately, several European nations are already experiencing a spike in infections as they gradually begin to repeal lockdown measures. In Bosnia, cases were minimal until mid-June but have now risen to north of 13,000, with close to 400 deaths.
The eyes of the international film community will be nervously trailed on the upcoming Venice Film Festival, scheduled to take place physically September 2 -12. At present, Italy’s infections rate is staying flat and optimism remains that it will avoid a major second wave. There will be nerves at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival, however, as the country is in the middle of a spike, including in the Basque region where the fest is held.
“Due to greatly increased concern regarding the epidemiological situation in Sarajevo, and record cases of COVID-19 infection in the city in the past several days, we at the Sarajevo Film Festival have made the decision to conduct the 2020 edition of all festival events entirely online from 14 to 21 August. This confirms the Sarajevo Film Festival’s responsibility and commitment to its community,” the festival said in a statement.
Sarajevo will instead premiere its program online, including opening film Focus, Grandma by Bosnian director Pjer Žalica. That movie, and others, will be available worldwide via the fest’s in house platform ondemand.sff.ba. Users can subscribe for the event’s entire program over its seven days, or select individual titles, which will be available in select territories depending on rights. It will also feature a program of online masterclasses.