Wiesbaden/Frankfurt, 27 February 2023
Jasmila Žbanić in goEast Portrait
Each year, goEast shines a spotlight on the oeuvre of a notable Eastern European filmmaker with an extensive retrospective. In so doing, the festival chooses to alternate between accomplished veteran directors and filmmakers who are in the middle of their career journeys. Following last year’s Homage to Lana Gogoberidze, the 2023 Portrait is devoted to Jasmila Žbanić, in an extension of the line of strong women from Central and Eastern Europe at the heart of the festival’s programming. Jasmila Žbanić is without a doubt among the most significant filmmakers from Bosnia and Herzegovina – and her recent European Film Award for QUO VADIS, AIDA? (2020) represents a great success on the international stage.
Born in Sarajevo in 1974 and educated at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts, in 1997 the Bosnian director founded the artists’ collective “Deblokada”, which has also produced her films since its inception. The name was coined in the 1990s in reference to the siege of Sarajevo. Following the city’s liberation, the after-effects of the war remained palpable in the form of diverse political, economic and psychological blockages, which have continued to shape the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the present day.
Jasmila Žbanić tackles these impasses through cinema. Her video art and documentary films were already featured at the documenta in Kassel in 2004. In her numerous, internationally award-winning films, the Bosnian director processes traumatic events and personal experiences of the impact of the Bosnian War. This conflict, nearly forgotten in Western Europe in the interim, is a recurrent theme in Žbanić’s films. Her feature-film debut GRBAVICA (2006) was awarded the Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlinale. The film treats the systematic rape of women as a means of waging war, which managed to spark a political discussion in her native country. A look at Ukraine shows that this subject is today sadly still as relevant as ever.
Jasmila Žbanić’s critical engagement with essential socio-political issues runs through her body of cinematic work like a guiding thread. For instance, QUO VADIS, AIDA? (2020) grapples with the massacre at Srebrenica. However, her filmography also includes less dramatic productions, such as the comedy LOVE ISLAND (2014). Somewhat astonished, she answered the question as to why she had made a film that wasn’t about war and its effects by saying that she does only something when she has something to say about a topic and not when it is expected of her. Following her success at the European Film Awards, she was also hired as a series director in the United States, for example most recently for the video game adaptation THE LAST OF US (2022).
goEast is delighted to be able to welcome Jasmila Žbanić personally to Wiesbaden in April. Curator and film scholar Borjana Gaković will be moderating the workshop conversation with the director. Alongside her fiction features, the comprehensive retrospective will also include screenings of a selection of Žbanić’s documentary films and shorter works.