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AJB DOC 2020

Edhem Fočo • Regista, AJB DOC

"I documentari realizzati a livello locale saranno il momento clou dell'edizione di quest'anno"

di 

- Abbiamo parlato con Edhem Fočo della prossima edizione di AJB DOC, il festival Al Jazeera Balkans di Sarajevo dedicato ai documentari televisivi, che si terrà dall'11 al 15 settembre

Edhem Fočo • Regista, AJB DOC
(© Mustafa Ozturk)

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

We talked to Edhem Fočo, director of the Sarajevo-based AJB DOC, the Al Jazeera Balkans' festival dedicated to TV documentaries, whose third edition is taking place 11-15 September

Cineuropa: How are you organising the festival in the pandemic circumstances?

Edhem Fočo: AJB DOC is going fully online. All films will be available on our platform online.ajbdoc.ba. They will be easily accessible, free of charge and with no need to register. You'll be one click away from viewing the film. However, some of the films will also be shown on the big screen in open venues or cinemas, depending on the weather. We can say that our festival will take on a hybrid form, even though we are touting it as a fully online film festival.

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What would you say characterises this year's AJB DOC programme? What are the highlights?
We are sticking to the themes that are close to Al Jazeera: human stories, political films, issues which are important to the community or society... l feel that locally made or produced documentaries will be the highlight of this year's edition. 

We are opening the festival with the local film Džemo, co-directed by Lejla Kajić and Davorin Sekulić, a fascinating story about a 45-year-old farmer who decides to start running and competing in physically demanding trail races. Despite having no coach, no fancy gadgets, and no proper running shoes, he keeps on winning. All the while, viewers keep discovering Džemo's simple but complex life, filled with scars from his past.

Our films focus on different topics, from Tito to Vahid Halilhodžić and frustration and pain inflicted by the conglomerate ArcelorMittal.

What do you think are the most negative and positive effects (if any) of the pandemic on documentary filmmakers and media companies in Bosnia?
Documentary filmmakers in Bosnia are always facing an uphill struggle. There are almost no funds available and there are limited outlets where you can show your films. This was the situation even before the pandemic.

The positive effects of the pandemic are few, if any. We will, for example, provide a free online training on Documentary Filmmaking Using Mobile Phones. It would be great if some young or youngish authors could produce good documentaries using only a mobile phone. Of course, it would reduce the production costs and help them be faster, more productive, and creative.

As for media companies, they are being affected by the decline of the economy. But those that are good at what they do will survive. I am talking about non state-owned or non state-funded media.

As for the festival, there are both negative and positive effects. Negative effects are that it was impossible to bring directors and producers to present their films so they could talk to audiences and to the media. They deserve to be at the centre of attention, but an online edition makes it impossible to provide them with a proper treatment. There are no meetings, no industry events, no mingling nor interaction with the audience. This is an important aspect of every festival and it is impossible to do online.

A positive effect is the possibility to reach a wider audience and go beyond just one city. Ultimately, I believe that this year's edition will have far more viewers compared to the previous ones. But the atmosphere won’t be the same and we are sad about that. All of our guests in previous years were talking about the amazing atmosphere and people of AJB DOC and they will miss it this year.

What has Al Jazeera perceived as trends among its viewers this year? Do people watch more of your programme and what is it that they are interested in? 
Yes, we have seen a strong surge in our numbers this year. They include our TV viewers, as well as those who follow us on YouTube, social media or through our website. Those numbers are at a record high this year. Al Jazeera was doing very well in its balanced and science-oriented approach to the pandemic. Our news had very high ratings in that period.

Similarly, our documentaries also did very well, as people stayed at home and had more time to watch TV. I have noticed that all themes were equally interesting to our viewers, be it a documentary about Palestine or Africa, or one of our locally produced travel shows. Our YouTube channel has recorded over 260 million views. It may not seem like a lot to YouTubers, but it is a significant number for serious news and documentary content. Even our documentaries have tens of millions of views. We are grateful for that.

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