Last week I hosted a panel of Balkan film-makers at Sheffield’s incredible Crucible Theatre as part of Sheffield DocFest, an international documentary festival which attracts over 2,000 film-makers and commissioning editors. The film-makers wander around Sheffield looking groovy and confused. And the commissioning editors wander around wearing pink shirts and loud glasses.
The Balkan film-makers — Oliver Sertic (Croatia), Mila Turajilic (Serbia) — (she’s the absurdly beautiful woman behind award-winning Cinema Komunisto, a documentary about Tito’s passion for film), Gentian Koci (Albania), Alexander Nanau (Romania) and Claire A Aguilar (a US producer interested in working with new European documentary talent) — were also young and groovy (but wearing jeans and sweatshirts and no pink shirts or loud glasses, thank goodness). The New York Times and International Herald Tribune insist that Balkan film is the Next Big Thing. But the panel were, perversely, having none of it. The debate mostly consisted of them complaining that they did not want to be on a panel of Balkan film-makers because they were film-makers in their own right and not simply Balkan. They showed a few excerpts from work-in-progress and the audience fell in love with the Croatian film Gangster of Love about an elderly matchmaker who has made it his life’s mission to find foreign, mostly Ukrainian, brides for local bachelors. His name? “Gangster.” Confusing. But groovy.