Sarajevo film festival appeals to free Ukrainian filmmaker

Sarajevo film festival launches an appeal on Russia to free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentzov

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Organisers of the Sarajevo film festival, the Balkans' largest industry gathering, called on Russia on Saturday to release an Ukrainian film director who has been tried under terrorism charges and could be jailed for 23 years.

Oleg Sentzov was arrested last year while protesting against Russia's annexation of Crimea and charged with terrorism, organisation of a terrorist group and arms trafficking.

The trial which began in late July is expected to close soon. Prosecutors have asked for a 23-year jail term for him.

The Sarajevo festival joined a campaign by the European Film Academy whose members, such as Stephen Daldry, Mike Leigh and Wim Wenders, called for Sentzov's immediate release in a letter to the Russian authorities earlier this week.

"Free Oleg Sentzov," U.K. film producer Mike Downey, a member of the competition programme jury for feature film, shouted from the festival's main stage during a closing ceremony on Saturday evening.

He was joined by three Greek actors, part of a six-actor group playing in the film "Chevalier" by director Athina Rachel Tsangari, which won the best actor award at the 21st edition of the largest film competition in the region stretching from Turkey to Austria.

Film "Mustang" by Turkish director Deniz Gamze Erguven about the struggle of women to win basic human rights in a patriarchal society won the 16,000-euro ($18,227) Heart of Sarajevo award for the best movie in the competition of 10 movies. The film's five young actresses also won as a group the award for the best actress.

The Sarajevo film festival, which was founded as an act of defiance while the city was besieged during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, this year showed 259 movies from 57 countries to over 100,000 visitors.

It awarded the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo awards to Hollywood Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro and Canadian director Atom Egoyan for their "extraordinary contributions to the art of film."