Review: Bosnian Broadway (2021)

Sarajevo Film Festival
Competition Programme – Documentary Film

Courtesy of Sarajevo International Film Festival

Ever since the end of war in former Yugoslavia, there has been a continuous number of cultural projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina initiated by the international organizations and institutions with different aims and purposes. They were and still are important for the region, but what happens once the project is over?

Some time in 2019, sixteen young actors from the region were casted for a Broadway type of musical in English language and put up by established American artists, among them Aaron Thielen – Artistic Director for Marriot Lincolnshire Theatre, and one of the most significant musical theatre producers in the United States.

As the rehearsals progress, the actors’ hopes and aspirations grow. Almost all of them are dreaming about going abroad and making a career on an international theatre stage, knowing deep inside that this will probably never happen. The excitement about the forthcoming premiere gets replaced by the gloomy realization that this will probably be ‘it’.

Jasmina Beširević’ short documentary Bosnian Broadway is a portrait of the young generation of artists who are aware of their tiny spot in the world of entertainment, despite of great talent and hard work. The question about the purpose of the project is thrown in the room – are they given a true chance or is the musical just another thing done because there was a budget that needed to be spent?

There is another dimension to the film that shows the general lack of knowledge by western artists about the country they venture into to develop cultural projects. The ‘exotic’ spot in the Balkans with fresh wounds from the war is often sniffed like some curious dish that smells of unknown spices. Two male actors are amused by the question their mentor asked them (although they admit it sounded honest, and not mean): “Do we know what a plasma TV is? We should have told him that we even eat Plasma biscuits!” The latter will confuse anyone who hasn’t grown up, or lived in former Yugoslavia: Plasma is the name of the popular biscuits produced by the Serbian factory Bambi (based in Požarevac) since 1967. Due to a very dangerous feaux-amis flavour to it the product had to change its name for the foreign market, unlike plasma TVs which didn’t have to adapt to the territory of former Yugoslavia: they entered it about the same time as any other western corner of the world. So did films, theatre plays, art and music, indiscriminatly, despite all political troubles in the past 100 years.

The biscuit and flat panel display talk is a small pearl. It is a seemingly harmless commentary about the insider and outsider understanding of the life lived in Bosnia, but it is so universal that it could apply to any of the countries in the Balkans – “The wild, wild East” of Europe.

Bosnian Broadway casts more questions than answers, which proves to be the right choice. Beširević has an open ear to young artists’ existential crisis, their sober perspective on life and hopes.

Original Title: Bosanski brodvej
Language: Bosnian/ Croatian/ Serbian
Year: 2021
Runtime: 30′
Written/ Directed by: Jasmina Beširević
Director of Photography: Jasmina Beširević
Editor: Iva Ivan
Sound Design: Nina Ugrinović
Re-recording Mixer: Luka Grubišić-Čabo
Sound Recordists: Samir Hrković, Predrag Blagojević
Colourist: Marinko Marinkić
Producer: Vanja Jambrović, Tibor Keser
Production: Restart