The Screening Room Blog
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Dinner with Mike Leigh at the Sarajevo Film Festival

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- One evening at the Sarajevo Film Festival I was lucky enough to be invited to meet great British filmmaker Mike Leigh.

We're at a dinner, which takes place in quite surreal surroundings at a golf club which overlooks a large graveyard. Inevitably, the subject of war comes back to the table time and time again.

Leigh spends most of the time talking about "Happy-Go-Lucky" leading lady, Sally Hawkins, who gives a great performance -- and the special role women play in his films. He says he finds it important, "to make good parts for women, mostly because there aren't very many."

"Happy-Go-Lucky" is set in north London but he says he hopes "it transcends to other places." It certainly seems to have from the standing ovation the audience gave it after the screening in Sarajevo.

Leigh is also in Bosnia because of the foundation set up in memory of Katrin Cartlidge -- the British actress known for great roles in films like Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves," Leigh's "Topsy-Turvy," "Naked" and others -- which awards bursaries to filmmakers. The Sarajevo connection comes from Cartlidge's role in Sarajevan Danis Tanovic's award-winning "No Man’s Land."

"This is my fifth visit to Sarajevo," Leigh told the assembled crowd and it would seem, the lack of pretentious arrangements is one of the secrets that brings global film stars back to Sarajevo time and time again. While showing courtesy and friendship, Miro, the festival founder leaves special guests to do whatever they want, while film goers are polite and don't intrude on the stars.

-- From CNN's Neven Andjelic

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