We Are One Film Festival: Day Three
Online Screen Editor, Jim Norman, considers Les Ponts de Sarajevo from day three of the We Are One Film Festival
Day three of the We Are One Film Festival managed to maintain the prior days’ diversity. There were a number of short films from Annecy, conversations with Guillermo del Toro and Tessa Thompson, the documentary And She Could be Next from Tribeca, and the 2014 art film, Les Ponts de Sarajevo. It is on this feature film that I shall focus my coverage.
Bridges of Sarajevo, to give it its English title, is an anthology picture which combines 13 short films under the common theme of exploring the city of Sarajevo. A title card that appears at the start of the film outlines the brief history of the Bosnian capital, delineating the city as ‘a symbol of the hopes of a possible “co-existence”’. The short films that follow explore a variety of different aspects of the location’s history as well as its present culture. From Kamen Kalev’s ‘My Dear Night’ which documents the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and the subsequent start of the First World War, the shorts progressively explore both the large and small elements of the community, with direction from the likes of Sergey Loznitsa, Jean-Luc Godard, Ursula Meier and many more. Each short is bookended by a hand-drawn animation from François Schuiten, showing the imagined creation of a number of fictional bridges around the city.
This is less of a love letter to the capital and more of a break-up text
This is certainly a film made for the art house circuit, and whilst there were certain shorts that really drew me in through their beauty and efficient storytelling, there remained a large part of the programme into which I struggled to invest.
‘My Dear Night’, the opening short from Kalev, is an excellent start to the collection. Its use of shallow focus and steady cam visually captures the paranoia of the Archduke Ferdinand’s final night alive, working to establish a tone of monumentality for the city to which few of the other shorts manage to rise. Indeed, many of my favourite stories from this anthology were those which chose to focus on the small-scale narratives. Teresa Villaverde’s ‘Sara et sa mère’, Islid Le Besco’s ‘Little Boy’, and Ursula Meier’s ‘Silence Mujo’ each choose to frame Sarajevo’s complex history through the eyes of a child, thus forming an ignorance and naivety to which the city’s past trauma is well suited.
It becomes apparent that Sarajevo is a city built on bloodshed and violence and many of the directors choose to run into this theme head on rather than opting to take the scenic route. Voices document the brutal killings of many citizens through both the war and the military occupation, making many of the shorts an uncomfortable watch.
It is unfortunate that these shorts are to be drawn together as an overall project. They combine to form a lopsided collection which contains too much vanilla and not enough spice. Those that work are wholly engaging and left me wanting more; unfortunately such pieces were to be found on too rare an occasion. This is less of a love letter to the capital and more of a break-up text.