Recently, I spent several hours immersed in the language at the 11th Annual Bosnian Herzegovinian Film Festival.
This year’s festival screened 16 films in the categories of feature, short, and documentary, which were chosen from 33 submissions from 10 countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the United States and Canada.
My personal favorite film of the series was Finding Family, which made its NYC premier and won the Jury Award for the Best Documentary Film and the Audience Award for Best Picture. It was exciting to be able to chat with the film’s director, Chris Leslie, before the film, and hear his personal connection to the story.
The film tells the story of Oggi Tomic, a Sarajevo orphan, and his incredible journey as he heads back to Bosnia 20 years after the war to look for answers as to who his long lost family was, and why he was orphaned. Director Chris Leslie first met Oggi when he was volunteering at the orphanage, and knew that this was a story that needed to be told.
The real emotional, gut-wrenching twists for me were two fold: first when Oggi finds out his family was actually the enemy, the people that shelled and sniped at him and the rest of the city during the 1,300 day siege of Sarajevo. Brutal.
Second, it was really emotional seeing the orphanages/institutions throughout the country, the condition they are run in, and the upbringing the children endure. It was very eye opening and begged the questions of 1. why is there no foster care system in place and 2. in a time when so many people would love to adopt, why aren’t these kids given that second chance?
I found it inspirational that Oggi is now an ambassador for Hope and Homes for Children, who’s main goal is to get children out of institutions and into a home with a loving family. The organization certainly offers lots of ways to get involved in this cause, if that’s something you’re interested in!
Bravo to the festival for hosting another fabulous year, we’re very much looking forward to what you have in store for next year!