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Serbia is rich in festivals and its capital has been gathering artists from all over the world for the past few decades. The youngest one is the Belgrade dance festival which was held for the first time in the spring of 2004. Long before that, in 1971 International film festival Belgrade – FEST was created, and  three years before that Belgrade International Theatre Festival – BITEF was organized for the first time.

All three festivals have had a turbulent history. They were created thanks to the great enthusiasm of local artists and they have survived despite their often low budgets. The world's most respected artists have been invited, enabling the domestic audience to enjoy their work. And those festivals are what makes Belgrade a true part of the world.

belgrade international theatre festival (bitef)

Since the foundation of BITEF, new theatre tendencies have presented its focus. Its founders, director Mira Trailović and theatrologist Jovan Ćirilov, wanted to tear down the political boundaries between East and West.

“Transcending all political and cultural borders, for one half of a century Bitef has managed to keep its pace with a tumultuous evolution of performing arts. Thus, one could identify the history of BITEF as a history of contemporary theatre”, the website of this festival states.

During the 60s and 70s, the BITEF audience could see one of the most courageous stage experiments, examples of the traditional Asian theatre, and significant classical achievements. Over the next two decades, it showed the highest reaches of the postmodern theater and dance.

BITEF has presented the most original and innovative productions of the world’s mainstream theatre performances of post-dramatic, nonverbal expression, as well as those realized with new technologies. 

Also, the theatre BITEF was founded in 1989. It is located on today’s Mira Trajlović`s square in Belgrade. It is a platform for domestic artists who explore new theatrical forms.

belgrade dance festival (bdf)

BDF was founded in 2003 with the aim of researching the field of contemporary dance. Since then, 370 works by renowned choreographers have been performed: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sylvie Gillem, Carla Fracci, Manuel Legris, Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Jose Carlos Martinez, Annes Letestu, Gradimir Pankov, Paul Lightfoot, Angelin Preljocaj, Sharon Eyal, Jacopo Godani, Johan Inger, Giuseppe Piccone.

Over time, the festival has attracted a growing number of audience, and nowadays the program is watched by 23,000 spectators every year. It is listed in Serbia’s BBC An Insider's Guide as a cultural event to visit.

“People from the Balkans have a rhythm and, coming to the Belgrade Dance Festival, I have met a lot of quality dancers thanks to Aja Jung”, said Jacopo Godani, a choreographer and the director of Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company. 

Berlin-based BalletTanz labeled the Belgrade Dance Festival as 'the most representative manifestation of the old continent' and a 'trendsetter of contemporary dance'.

As Aja Jung, the director of BDF, stated: “The Festival provides tremendous support to local professional dancers, teachers, choreographers, and representatives of all artistic fields. Valuable information and contacts with foreign dance companies opened up the prospects, opportunities for scholarships, and engagements for young dancers, while successful performances produced on the local scene were created by foreign choreographers that Festival managed to present.”

The value of those festivals was recognized by the government, so the 12th Festival was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and in cooperation with the EU Delegation to Serbia. 

international film festival (fest)

“A Brave New World” was the slogan of the first FEST. Movie “Mash” by Robert Altman was the first movie to be shown at this festival on January 9th,  1971. Since then, works of Stanley Kubrick, Dennis Hopper, Eric Rohmer, Louis Bunuel, Živojin Pavlović, Marcello Mastroianni, Harvey Keitel, Liv Ullman, Bernardo Bertolucci have been shown.

To date, FEST boasts four million visitors and nearly 4,000 relevant international films, which have had their Yugoslav/Serbian and often regional premiere at this Festival. In 2007, there were 98,191 tickets sold for around 80 films.

Jack Nicholson, Kirk Douglas, Robert De Niro, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Miloš Forman, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Sam Peckinpah, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Johnny Depp, and many others have walked the red carpet of FEST.

“I am very happy to be in your country. I am also happy that our movie is the one to open a festival which has existed for years and has historical significance. I am honored to participate in this event. I wish FEST a long life and much success”, said the actress Monica Belucci.

During festivals, Belgrade shines with a special glow. In front of theaters, cinemas, and music halls there are many lines of people dressed up for this occasion. A lot of people would say that in those places one can feel the true spirit of Belgrade.

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