News from Paris in Sarajevo: WARM Festival 2014

The First World WARM Festival took place in Sarajevo June 28 to July 4, concurrent with 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. This new festival focuses on contemporary conflicts through exhibitions, film screenings and conferences. Behind the festival lies the Warm Foundation, a project that grew out of the reunion of reporters and photographers in Sarajevo in 2012, regathering twenty years after the beginning of the siege of the city during the Bosnian war (1992-95). WARM is dedicated to war reporting and war art, as well as history and memories of war, and dedicated to the promotion of emerging talents and to education as well as bringing together people with a common passion for “telling the story with excellence and integrity”. This interesting initiative is headed by Rémy Ourdan, long-time war correspondent at Le Monde, and works out of Sarajevo, Paris, London and New York. The plan is to open a center in Sarajevo hosting research, archives, co-production and -publishing, a residence and the development of an educational program.

The festival offered a vast program this year. Five intense days with brutal, overwhelming and important insights into contemporary conflicts and into how stories about war can be told through different medias. It all being set in the city of Sarajevo only adds to the impressive atmosphere. Here’s a short account of what I saw.

The festival opened with an outdoor exhibition Every State of War, an excellent selection of cartoons from around the world, notably Syria and Iran, curated by Plantu, cartoonist for Le Monde and founder of Cartooning for Peace (an association created to promote tolerance and mutual understanding between cultures as a reaction to the Mohammed cartoons). Another exhibition, Chris Hondros Testament, showed the work, photographs and writing, of the American photojournalist Chris Hondros who died in Libya in 2011. And now to the film program…


Two evenings were dedicated to Syria. The Syrian filmmaker collective Abounaddara presented Snapshots of History in the Making, a montage of short films made from anonymous filmmakers throughout Syria, preceded by the slideshow The Way to the Frontline, photographs by Laurent Van der Stockt from Jobar, Damascus. And next, a screening of the documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, the first screening since the premiere at Cannes this year. I will try to write more about these two films later.

French filmmaker Florent Marcie screened a long version (over 4 ½ hours!) of his film Tomorrow Tripoli – The Revolution of the Rats, a world premiere. Marcie arrived at Zintan, a small city in northwestern Libya, in February 2011 and followed a group of local rebels from the beginning of the insurrection until their arrival at Tripoli and the death of Gaddafi in October the same year. Marcie participated in this epic voyage filming the frontline of the revolution and it’s men, literally in between bullets and heavy shelling. This is cinema engagé, engaged cinema with a capital E! Marcie, a truly independent, always works alone and does everything, including editing and postproduction, by him self. Working outside the traditional film production, funding and distribution circles, the film is made with and for the participants, the rebels of Zintan, who also has been participating in the financing of the production. This quite radical manner of working was reflected even at the festival, where over a hundred of zintanais flew in from Tripoli to Sarajevo to discover the film for the first time!

All screenings took place at the cinema Meeting point, which also hosts the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival. A great place with a nice bar and terrace where you can have the much-needed drink and talk after the heavy screenings.

Much more was going on at the festival, I’ll mention a last event: #Dystyrb is a group of photographers that uses urban space as a media to expose photographic stories. At night, large format posters are plastered up on walls throughout the city, a way to reach a public without depending on the traditional publishing medias. During the festival, the group exposed the work of French photographer Camille Lepage, recently killed in the Central African Republic.

Abounaddara, Tomorrow Tripoli and #Dystyrb are all WARM partner projects. The festival finely reflected the purpose of the WARM Foundation: creating a forum for different actors to meet and work together. People from the field, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, writers, artists, ngo’s, historians, archivists, associations and institutions such as the international festival of photojournalism in Perpignan Visa pour l’Image, The Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents, The Imperial War Museum, The Red Cross Museum, la Bibliothèque de documentation international contemporaine, amongst others.

Sarajevo is a wonderful place to visit, so why not combine it with checking out this festival that takes place in the city every year at the end of June. All events at the festival are public and free.

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Sara Thelle
Sara Thelle
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