14 Years Balkantage
Women from the Balkans – Where is respect?
The highlight was therefore the dialogue event in the Munich City Museum on the subject of “Women in the Balkans – Challenges in Times of Globalisation and Renationalisation”, in which successful, strong women report on their home countries from different perspectives. Sonja Biserko from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Nora Hasani, Managing Director of the Kosovar-German Business Association and Jagoda Rosul-Gajic from the Centre for Languages and Intercultural Communication in Augsburg addressed, among other things, the influence of the EU accession negotiations on gender equality policy in Serbia and Montenegro, where gender equality has so far been significantly below the EU average.
Even film performances, such as “Oma Export”, showed strong women who resolutely stand up for their wishes and do not let themselves be beaten down. Throughout the entire programme, reference was also made to women: They appeared as actors in films, directors, speakers, artists or at the Balkan bazaar as well as the literature evening (author Nina Basovic) with music (Jelena Jückstock).
The exhibition “Balkan girl power”, in which 100 young women reflect the role of Balkan women in their works of art, was also supposed to be a highlight – but unfortunately this fell victim to the Corona Pandemic. Further concerts, film screenings as well as the literature day and the big Balkan concert of Urban&4 had to be cancelled.
Space of possibilities
In addition to the opening discussion, the Balkan Film Festival, in particular, was intensively engaged in thought games about a better, more open future and a wealth of possibilities in the spirit of: What if? “The Constitution”, for example, raises the question of what happens when chance brings together people from the most diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds who would otherwise never speak to each other voluntarily. “The other side of everything”, on the other hand, deals with resistance and rebellion driven by the desire for justice in Serbia and the tireless efforts to achieve this goal.
The exhibition “Stari Most – Munich/Mostar, a Bridge of Hope” and the discussion on the “Influence of Migration on Literature” also provided impulses on how much is possible when you have goals and work tirelessly to achieve them.
In between, the programme was repeatedly lightened up by concerts, such as that of the Romanian Balkan soul group “Zmei3”, a stand-up comedy performance on the life of two guest workers and a grandiose final concert by Jacques Houdek and Ilma Karahmet.
The panel discussion on the topic “Dreamland Germany – Guest Work 1986-2018” will critically examine migration. Today’s brain drain is also the subject of a discussion in Starnberg in renewed cooperation with “Kunsträume am See” by and with Elisabeth Carr, and Sadija Klepo emphasises that these people must be given back the courage to use their education in their home country to fulfil their dreams there too and thus develop their country further.
Artistically, a platform is also provided for uprooting through flight. People who do not feel 100% accepted and accepted in their country of origin or destination, but who nevertheless do not lose heart, as a film by the young Syrian director Afraa Batous shows. Other films presented, such as “Zaba” or “My own private war”, also deal sensitively with war traumas, or offer a musical way of coming to terms with the past at a melancholy fado concert by Božo Vrećo.
25 years later – The long shadow of the Yugoslav wars
Already at the kick-off event, a discussion on “The Long Shadow of War” addressed all these issues, focusing in particular on economic and political stagnation and the emigration of many well-educated, young people.
The lack of prospects for young people (“Losers”), their hopes and dreams (“Four Passports”) and the aftermath of the past (“Invisible Scars – Rape as a War Crime”) were also dealt with during the Balkan Film Days.
The 25-year history of the association Hilfe von Mensch zu Mensch and its founder, Sadija Klepo, who herself came to Germany as a refugee in 1992 and subsequently supported people in the war zones with aid transports, was also the focus of the festival this time in the form of an exhibition. Pictures showed the eventful history of the aid organisation and its work, supplemented by calligraphies by Mirsad Smajovic.
Last but not least, the 2017 festival entitled “Möglichkeitsräume” (Opportunity Spaces) was also held for the first time in the Munich area. There the visitors received many food for thought, for example through a lecture on the subject of home. “Wouldn’t it be alarming if people could define home in a single sentence, because then it would be immediately clear who did not belong to them?
Discover the real Balkans.
Europe’s unknown jewel
While a panel discussion at the beginning of the festival on the theme of “Equal rights for all?” in a ruthless analysis addressed not only the region’s potential but also many of the problems that exist there – such as unemployment, brain drain and seeping EU funds, the two photo exhibitions “Faces of Bosnia” and “Balkans in Colour” focused on positive images.
With music, dance and lectures, which, among other things, were intended to raise awareness between “Balkan image and Balkan reality”, the visitors could continue to be fascinated by the Balkan countries.
Theatre performances, such as Lew N. Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata” or “Why the Child Cookes in the Polenta”, were just as thematically diverse as the programme of the Balkan Film Days, curated by Oliver Tataru.
The films shown, such as “Chuck Norris vs. Communism”, “Babai” or “The Serbian Lawyer” were not only thematically highly topical. The presence of high-class guests and the lectures (“Image of Women in Contemporary Bosnian-h. Cinema”) and discussions following the films gave the programme additional substance.
The absolute highlight was the big Balkan concert with the singer Milica Milisavljevic Dugalic from Belgrade and the group Divanhana from Sarajevo. The latter completely captivated the audience with modern versions of the traditional Bosnian songs, the sevdalinka.
Roma in the Balkans
In particular, the three exhibitions “Roma soul: portraits and poetry” by Tom Xylander and Karina Alanis, “Roma celebrations and festivals” by Maja Gugleta and “At the Roma in a Romanian village” by Maja Badur focused on the human being as such, with his or her own authenticity, culture and joie de vivre, which deserve respect, as well as on his or her living conditions and everyday life.
At the discussion round “Roma on the Balkans”, moderated by the academic director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Herbert Heuß, the current situation of the Roma in the Balkans as well as in Germany was described in order to explain the problems this minority encounters and also to encourage the audience to deal with them. Further lectures, e.g. on the Roma strategy of the European Commission and Antiziganism in German society, provided further food for thought.
A basic problem of rejection or racism towards individual population groups is a lack of social knowledge, e.g. about their culture. For this reason, the culture of the Roma was also conveyed to the audience in other event formats in film (e.g. “I even met happy gypsies”, “René, a Franconian Sinto”), music (gala concert ESMA REDŽEPOVA & ESMA’S BAND), haptic (sale of costume jewellery in Gipsy style) and culinary.
100 years later
With this in mind, this year’s Balkan Days, for example through the exhibition “Sarajevo 1914” by Abida Ruppert, focused on the situation a hundred years ago and examined the question of the changes and consequences that have occurred since then.
A central element was the Young Literature event, which focused on who or what I am and how I define my identity. On the one hand, young people tried to answer this question in a writing competition on the theme: “A day that changed the world. 100 years after the Sarajevo assassination attempt”, and on the other hand a film screening provided an intensive examination of this topic. These modern formats were intended to encourage young people to deal with history and the past, while at the same time considering and recognising the consequences for the present.
The photo exhibition MOnuMENTI, which shows the development of identity concepts in the countries of the Western Balkans in the course of the 20th century, is also intended to support this constructive approach to the past.
However, the scientific-literary programme has always been loosened up and excellently complemented by artistic formats, such as a moving concert by guitarist Sanel Redžić as well as film screenings, such as Tzvetanka and Mama Europa, and the Balkan bazaar.
European integration made in Croatia
Not only was the musical accompaniment of the opening event in Croatian hands, where the soprano Alma Karmelic from Split enchanted everyone with her singing, but also the opening of the Balkan Film Days by the Croatian Consul Ante Jovic. Also on the programme was the Croatian film “Halimin Put” by award-winning director Arsen A. Ostojić alongside the Serbian comedy “Parada” by Srdjan Dragojević.
However, in order to do justice to the diversity of the Balkans, the presentation of a country portrait on Croatia was supplemented by two more on Bosnia-Herzegovina by and with Mario Gerussi and Nadir Cukurija, as well as on Bulgaria in the form of an illustrated lecture by Andreas Keiser. In addition, a unique art exhibition with works of straw technology from Bunjevac in Batschka/Serbia took place.
Finally, the most famous Macedonian ethnic group “Synthesis” and the Serbian soprano Jelena Bodrazic performed at a great concert in the Gasteigs, once again underlining the high cultural diversity of the Balkans.
How 20 years of commitment will change the world…
This anniversary was commemorated in a magnificent concert with the band Mostar Sevdah Reunion in the Hercules Hall of the Residence, where Sadija Klepo was also honoured for her extraordinary commitment.
In addition to the association’s anniversary, this year’s literary and scientific programme focused on current politics and international prosecution of war crimes committed during the wars of Yugoslavia’s succession. Highlights were above all the lecture by Dr. Armina Galijaš on the war in Bosnia as well as the lecture by Günter Schweiger, deputy head of the Sarajevo office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, on the work of his authority and on justice in and for the Balkans.
This tension between diversity and common ground as well as between war and peace was also reflected in the film screenings, for example in the film “In the land of blood and honey”, which rounded off the Balkan Days.
Does time really heal all wounds?
This was initially achieved through a musical encounter of cultures with the women’s choir Tuzlanke, the rock band Stari Grad from Srebrenica and the Macedonian brass band Gypsy-Mambo Kocani.
Afterwards, the motto ran through the Balkan bazaar, the cultural programme with a fashion show by Amela Radan from Sarajevo, numerous folklore performances and an exhibition in memory of the Yugoslavian Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric.
This red thread also became visible at the Balkan Film Day, which now features eight films, shown at the Gabriel Filmtheatre. The film Belvedere by Ahmed Imamovic, which follows the life in today’s Srebrenica in a documentary presentation, left the most traces. It traces how the survivors of the massacre struggle with the reality of the coexistence of victims and perpetrators and proves that the wounds of Srebrenica are far from healed.
The scientific rounding off and the highlight of the Balkan Days finally consisted in the speeches of the High Representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, as well as the subsequent panel discussion on the topic “Democracy in the Balkans” with top-class guests. It was concluded that there is a high degree of willingness to respect democratic rules of the game, but that processes such as respect for minority rights and the replacement of autocratic behaviour by the old elites are not yet complete everywhere.
A little bit of Balkan for Munich…
Country experts for Romania, Greece, Croatia and Kosovo, together with Mrs Pack, Chairperson of the EP’s Delegation for the Observation of Elections in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, discussed south-eastern particularism and its consequences. Issues such as the limits of state sovereignty and the rights of population groups and minorities were also discussed, as well as the need for real integration of these countries into the European Community, beyond the mere lifting of visa requirements.
In Sibylle Lewitscharoff’s reading from her novel Apostoloff on the subject of the state and social constitution of present-day Bulgaria, the scientific and cultural aspects were finally united. Cultural content was also offered a platform at the Balkan Bazaar and at the second Balkan Film Days.
The Balkan Days 2010 ended with a concert by the music group Chartbreaker and a performance by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian guest group Mostar Sevdah Reunion, who brought the Balkan blues to Munich.
In this context, some candidates for the election of the Foreigners’ Advisory Board Munich presented themselves and the acting chairman of this board, Cumali Naz, once again emphasised the prevailing discrepancy between the same civil duties for foreigners and partly missing, equal civil rights, e.g. the right to vote in local elections, for this group. The fourth Balkan Days thus highlighted the continuing need for action to raise cultural awareness, but at the same time showed a high level of interest in these countries and cultures.
How a format establishes itself…
Various concerts, a panel discussion on the subject of “Dialogue of the Religions in the Balkan Region” and the Balkan Film Day, which took place for the first time this year, brought the cultural diversity and successful integration of the different peoples in Bavaria to the fore.
The cultural highlight in 2009 was a cultural evening, in addition to the colourful Balkan bazaar, framed by artistic performances, e.g. by the Vitkovici cultural association from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a children’s programme with a book bazaar. After another performance by the folklore groups Jelek and Gajda, the Albanian singer Suad Mehmeti, born in Montenegro, and his group Trilogy of Desire were the centre of attention.
A further highlight was the Balkan Film Day, arranged by Michael Rüdel and taking place for the first time. Four award-winning films from the Balkans, such as the Rota Zora, which have not yet been shown in German, were presented at the Rio Filmpalast with a subsequent film review.
This year’s Balkan Days ended with a big live concert. In the Muffathalle, the band “Trovači” entertained the audience with self-ironic texts that offered a balkanised view of everyday life in Germany. In addition, the legendary Serbian singer Vlada Divljan (“Ex-Idoli”) performed.
All in all, the event formats continued to diversify this year and opened up new, exciting perspectives. Thus, thanks to the Balkan Days, it was again possible to convey a different picture of the Balkan countries.
Never change a winning team…
A highlight was already the opening concert of the Macedonian singer Esma Redžepova, “the Queen of Roma music”, presented bilingually by Sadija Klepo and framed by various musical performances as well as a fashion show of handmade dress creations of the master tailor Snežana Radosavjević from Niš.
As Munich’s MEP Bernd Posselt noted in his brief welcome address, the successful representation of people from the Balkan countries in Munich was exemplary in its kind for cross-border European cooperation. In the course of the other formats, a bridge was built between the past and the future, between the Balkans yesterday and today and the integration of the Balkan* people today in Germany and Munich.
This was thematised and illustrated on the one hand in an exhibition on “The Balkans in historical maps” and on the other hand in various academic discussion & reading formats on the role of Yugoslavian guest workers, who today make up the largest part of the Balkan community in Munich.
For the first time in 2008 the Balkan Bazaar took place with many different stands, prepared by committed marketing entrepreneur Edina Matosevic. It was framed by a continuous culture and music programme of various groups and was culinary supported by homemade cevapcici and baklava from Konoba Budimir. This year’s event was already significantly larger than the first Balkan Days 2007, convinced with its newly integrated bazaar and began to establish itself as a unique format with great diversity.
How it all began…
An alternative perspective on the Balkans was offered by a photo exhibition on the subject of “Memories of the Balkan Wars 1991 – 1999”, a piano concert by pianist Zoran Imširović and three readings comparing the prevailing image of the Balkans among Germans and the people living there.
The highlight of the first Balkan Days was a panel discussion on the current European perspectives on the Balkan countries, which was very well received, also by young people. On the stage, experts such as Bernd Posselt, Member of the European Parliament, Rainer Sinner, Member of the German Bundestag, and country experts from Bosnia, Prof. Hadžiahmetović, and Kosovo, Mr Cufai, discussed the special situation of both countries from different perspectives. In addition, the Bavarian interest in stable conditions in these countries was emphasised by representatives of the Bavarian State Chancellery and the Munich Upper Bavaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
On the following day, further formats were held to present the projects of the HVMZM association and artistic performances. All in all, not only the interesting discussion topic of the Balkan Days, which took place for the first time, met the ravages of time, but the overall event was a great success and should therefore find a firm place in Munich’s calendar of events in the following years as an annual format with a demanding and varied programme.