Another key element of SEE Fest programming is year-round extensive research by a team of talented young programmers. Film studies grads (Elisa Iovine, head programmer, Adnan Dzumhur, associate programmer) and eastern European history majors (Gregory Schenz) scout international festivals, big and small, and look for the best original ideas, emerging talent, new approach to the region’s stories as well as new approach to story telling itself. Together with the festival director, film critic and founder of the festival Vera Mijojlic, the programmers put together an ambitious program every year, well-balanced to include as many countries from Austria in the north-west to Turkey in the south-east.
Each day of the festival has a strong feature anchoring two, three and sometimes more documentaries, shorts and animated films. The range of topics, filmmaking styles, and genres further expand and deepen the mission of the festival: to educate about cultural diversity and complexities of South East Europe, and to offer valuable insight into themes that rock the foundations of societies everywhere. We in Southern California need not look further than our southern border with Mexico to recognize that we too have our own ambiguous relationship with issues such as cross-border migrations of people, drugs and trafficked human cargo. Likewise within the many folds of our urban living in Los Angeles lie pockets of small-town provincial life very much like that in Slovenia’s “Rooster’s Breakfast”, complete with celebrity worship. California is the birthplace of all kind of ideas and schools of thought on how to break free from the decadent excesses of existence based on opulence and greed – something the authors of Croatia’s short animated gem “Unplugged” explore with great success.
Divorce and its lasting effects get a devastating treatment in two films of great emotional power: Bulgaria’s “Divorce Albanian style”, and Romania’s “Megatron”. Both are winners of multiple international awards, including Human Rights and Palme d’Or, respectively.
In purely cinematic terms Romania’s “Elevator” lifts the spirits of any film aficionado with its minimalist production and miniscule budget of 300 euros, but with what stunning results! Previously unknown young director, self-taught filmmaker George Dorobantu handles the tight confines of his austere set with such great camera skills (yes, he was the DP too, among many other things) and well-paced story telling and editing that the viewer can’t but wonder at his creative courage. Needless to say, the film wins you over, and in the words of one fellow critic, with a “glorious final sequence” of great cinematic power.
SEE Fest is proudly presenting the official documentary of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games held in Sarajevo, “A Turning Point”. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of those historic games, and the festival pays homage to a great city and its courageous Olympic spirit that continued to shine during the war-time siege of Sarajevo 1992-95, and is still in evidence today.
Interspersed throughout the festival program are numerous short films and docs, experimental films and animation vignettes, and trailers of films made by expat filmmakers. In all some 23 films will be screened in two venues: Goethe Institut Los Angeles, and UCLA James Bridges Theatre.
An additional feature of the festival this year is our first-ever Business conference, titled “Unlocking the Byzantine Film Model”. With three panels devoted to financing, producing and distributing, the conference will explore opportunities for independent filmmaking in South East Europe, and between film communities in Hollywood and cinema centers in the region.”