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Talent Workshop


Dear Festival friends!

Branko Lustig, president of the Festival

Branko Lustig, predsjednik festivala

The 4th Zagreb Jewish Film Festival is coming up. It has become a unique worldwide renowned event that tries to remind us of the days when madness ruled the world and of the times we constantly pray for, that they never return.

A lot of people ask me if I am happy that despite of all the difficulties and the financial crisis we are living in we are still able to organize the Festival this year again? I tell them with pride in my heart: yes, I am happy, because owing to our associates and the people with a heart of gold here in our city we succeeded to collect enough funds to revive the Festival this year again.

Keeping in mind all the Holocaust horrors, this year’s Festival is dedicated to the Righteous Persons, the people that lived among us in these hard times and which, not caring for their own life, saved their fellow citizens regardless of their belief but in fear from the then rigorous Nazi laws. Some of them received acknowledgement after the Second World War and some, due to bureaucratic reasons or due to their humbleness – didn’t. We will try to remember them during the seven days of the Festival and show them gratitude and respect.

Many of my acquaintances and friends ask me lately often why we show these sad and tragic documentaries and motion pictures, if Jews don’t do comedies or films about love and human happiness. These „critics“ of mine claim that there have been enough tears and crying, that we have to turn towards the brighter side of life and to remind people of the joys this life has to offer. I agree, and believe me, for us it would be easier this way. I know that it is one of the great charms when watching films that the audience during the two hours they spend sitting in the auditorium tries to forget all the discomforts and things bothering them in everyday life and immerges into something different, leaving all problems aside for the brief moment until they leave the cinema. I know that but can I allow, in the city where I live, that all memories of those who lived here not so long ago, during my childhood, who lived in side streets, walked in still existing parks and squares, who sat on exactly these seats in the same cinemas and who in a sudden moment just – disappeared, be erased. Besides, their close relatives, if they haven’t disappeared too, no one remembers them any more, as if they never even existed.

The German artist Gunther Demnig started in Germany and Austria to bury stumbling blocks the size 10x10x10 cm coated with brass in front of houses and places from where Jews and other unwanted individuals were deported to various death camps from where they never returned. Onto the so-called “stolpersteine” he engraved the name of the person, its date of birth and death.

We either do not have such artist or there is no interest for such a thing in our city. We do not even have a monument at the site where there once stood the beautiful Jewish synagogue in Praška street. There is one little brass plate, that shyly reminds of the place where generations prayed to God, the same God, whose house only a little further away at the hilltop, proudly rises towards the sky.

Because of all these reasons, not to mention all the others, isn’t it worth because of all that to remind our fellow citizens of those times at least once a year. To commemorate these people who disappeared and we don’t even know their graves. Isn’t it worth to think about it, if not in real life, then at least in the darkness of the cinema auditorium, the same one where they have been sitting once? If we cannot bring these numerous unfortunates back, let us at least remember those who tried to save them and sometimes even succeeded.

President of the Festival, Mr. Branko Lustig