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In BiH, in Sarajevo, at SFF, Culture, the Heart and Soul of Democracy, is strong

Speech of Ms. Mary Ann Hennessey, Head of Office of the CoE in BiH:

I am very proud to talk to you this year about the Council of Europe’s continued partnership and sponsoring of the Sarajevo Film Festival. For this 20th edition, the CoE is again the sponsor and supporter of the Festival’s Best Feature Film Award “the Heart of Sarajevo”. This partnership is not only aboutfinancial support to an outstanding European cultural event, it is really a source of pride for us and highlights Bosnia and Herzegovina’s important place within the Council of Europe as a member State and as a key actor in Europe’s cultural life - past and present.

The European cultural identity is an integral part of thetheEurope of values, of democracy, human rights and the rule of law which is the Council of Europe’s mission.  The SFF contributes to this mission with its amazingly rich offering of films, programming and venues which reach out to the public, and, I must particularly commend its continued spotlight on European and especially regional cinema and support to European cinema industry.  Besides the sponsorship and partnership with SFF, and long before a film can be shown at the festival, the Council of Europe is involved in supporting the development and European co-production of films and the film industry in Europe, especially through Eurimages, and we are very proud that some of the films in competition this year received support from Eurimages.  Our colleague from Eurimages will tell you more about that.

This year we are celebrating 60 years of European Cultural Co-operation with the theme “Culture:  the Heart and Soul of Democracy”.  An exhibit highlighting the Council of Europe’s actions in the framework of the European Cultural Convention since 1954 is going to be present in the Festival Center.  Again this year, we will pay special attention to cinema as cultural communication and its role transmitting tolerance, respect and valuing diversity.  In this vein, I will participate in the Human Rights Day programme and discussion panel on 18 August.  The Council of Europe has produced short video spots one of which will be shown before each film in the HT Eronet Open Air Cinema ridiculing prejudice and another before the films in Teen Arena Programme targeting online bullying and hatespeech.

It seem as if young people do most of their living, loving and learning on the internet, so our European No Hate Speech Online Movement is primarily a youth driven, youth run campaign.  We will hold an open, public debate about No Hate Speech Online in Festival Square on 21 August to highlight this campaign, how young people in BiH can participate, and what the young people here have already done.

On a more personal note, for me this 20thSFF is an opportunity to remember the determination of this city, of this country, to hold up its humanity, civilization and culture as a shield against the many forms of barbarity which have tried to break its heart and soul over the last two decades.  Our celebration of cinema – of values and of culture – over the next days will be a reminder that war, corruption, poverty, intolerance or any other barbarity will not succeed.  In BiH, in Sarajevo, in SFF, Culture, the Heart and Soul of Democracy, is still going strong. 

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