The Balkan Script Fund

in 44th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Marina Kostova

The Balkan Fund initiative for supporting the development of screenplays in the Balkan countries, launched last year at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, showed the first results at this year’s editioon of the festival edition. Four feature film projects of directors from Bosnia, Turkey, Albania and Cyprus and Serbia were awarded 10.000 Euro each.

The winners came out of the 3-day pitching sessions before the 5-member international jury composed of well known film professionals. “I believe that the participation itself and the dialogue between colleagues was a positive experience for all the participants”, said the Artistic Director of the Balkan Fund, Christina Kallas.

The Balkan Fund is the only fund of this kind in the region and is financially supported by the Greek Ministry of Culture. The plan is each year to award 4 to 5 projects to directors from the Balkans with 10.000 Euro, in order to stir up and support the cooperation between filmmakers from the Balkans and South-East Europe. The only condition for the awarded scripts is that when they are made into films they should have their world premiere at the Thessaloniki festival, if they are not selected for Cannes, Berlin or Venice.

The first competition was announced last year in November right after the end of the festival, and by the deadline, the end of April this year, there were 23 applicants from all the Balkan countries, except the Republic of Macedonia. Then the jury chose 11 finalists who were invited this year to Thessaloniki to present their scripts.

The workshop brought together the filmmakers with prominent Balkan and European producers, distributors and investors and was also a very good chance to discuss possible cooperation. As Gunnar Bergdahl, the Swedish director and producer and member of the jury pointed out, the pitching was not only interesting but also helped the writers a lot to reconsider their screenplays and make them better.

The four winners were: “Small Crime” by Christos Georgiou from Cyprus and Srgjan Koljevic from Serbia; “Grbavica” by the Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanich, “The Coat” by Kutlug Ataman and Gulen Hurley from Turkey and “The Journey” by Artan Minaroli from Albania.

They are all different both in theme and in genre. “Small Crime” is a comedy about an ambitious young policeman who is serving in a boring small town, but who all of a sudden has a murder case to solve. “Grbavica” is a drama about a woman who was raped in a detention camp during the war in Bosnia and who lives with her child born after the rape. “The Coat” is a drama about a Turkish Cypriot girl who is taken to live in an occupied Greek village, and in the new house finds a beautiful coat of the Greek girl who lived there before. “The Journey” is a tragicomedy about an Albanian political prisoner who is to be saved from his European friend who visits along with a Western delegation.

Receiving the awards the winners said that it is more than money itself – it is a merit that would help the script to become a film. That actually is the most important point of the Balkan Fund initiative – to establish a reference that would encourage cooperation between the filmmakers of the region.