Emotional Jolie visits Sarajevo Film Festival

SARAJEVO Sat Jul 7, 2012 5:25pm EDT

U.S. actress Angelina Jolie stands next to Mirsad Purivatra, director of the 18th Sarajevo Film Festival, before the festival July 7, 2012. REUTERS/Sarajevo Film Festival/Handout

U.S. actress Angelina Jolie stands next to Mirsad Purivatra, director of the 18th Sarajevo Film Festival, before the festival July 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sarajevo Film Festival/Handout

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Angelina Jolie, whose directorial debut tackled the 1992-95 Bosnian war, attended the 18th Sarajevo Film Festival on Saturday and became an honorary citizen of the Bosnian capital in recognition of her film.

"This means so much to me. My heart is in this city," said a tearful Jolie on receiving the award from Sarajevo authorities. She arrived with her three children on a private plane.

Jolie's film "In the Land of Blood and Honey" tells the story of the war through the relationship between Danijel, a Bosnian Serb, and Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim woman, whose affection becomes hostage to their respective ethnic groups.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever done because of my deep respect for the people that really experienced it. The experience here was so unique for me that I felt very connected to the people," Jolie told Reuters.

But the Oscar-winning actress, who has used her fame to draw attention to humanitarian disasters across the world, said she was hesitant about embarking on a new directorial project tackling another conflict, such as the one in Afghanistan.

"I have been writing and I'd love to try at some point to direct another film. I would like to try to learn about countries like Afghanistan but I don't know if I am the best person to make the film about the subject matter," she said.

"Unless I felt I was somebody that can really contribute, I don't think I would do it," she added.

"I think it's important for film-makers to know what they are trying to say when they make a film. If you're gonna do something about another country, make sure to surround yourself by extraordinary people from that country and really know that country and let that country speak through you. Don't try to give the country your own voice."

This is Jolie's second attendance of the festival, the largest southern European film gathering.

She also threw her support behind the Sarajevo Talent Campus program, which gives young film talents from the region the chance to learn from established film professionals willing to share their knowledge.

The program seeks to give writers, actors and directors access to further education, an entry to the international film industry, and an incentive to make their first joint projects with colleagues from the region.

"I hope to spread to the world to pay more attention to the artists from this region," said Jolie.

The film festival, which opened late on Friday, acts as a major regional showcase. This year it will show more than 200 movies during its nine days.

Nine feature films from Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, Austria and Romania are competing for the Heart of Sarajevo, the festival's main award.

Apart from Jolie, the most famous guests are Spanish actress Victoria Abril, who stars in Macedonian film "The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears", and American director Todd Solondz, whose films will be screened in a special retrospective program.

Every year the festival hosts about 100,000 film fans, many from neighboring countries, and hoteliers and tourism officials say that nearly all accommodation is booked up during the event.

(Reporting By Maja Zuvela; Editing by Pravin Char)

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