This month we speak with Denis Samardzic, the Creative Director of Multiplex Ekran Zenica from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
FNE: What is the biggest challenge of running a cinema such as yours?
Denis Samardzic: The biggest challenge in organising and implementing the programme content is the completely unregulated market in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the high level of piracy, the loss of habit generated during the war and in the postwar years for watching movies in cinemas, and different imposts on business and the organising activities that we do.
An additional challenge is the low purchasing power of the population in our town (the average monthly salary is about 415 EUR a month) and a large unemployment rate. When planning budgets, people are not able to set aside and plan a part of their funds for entertainment and culture unless we can offer them something at the same price compared to a regular night out.
FNE: What kinds of films do you prefer to screen and why?
Denis Samardzic: We put special emphasis on children, youth and family movies, so that through regular and special programmes we could educate a new audience that will grow up used to going to the cinema to see a movie in their leisure time.
FNE: The cinema is home to many festivals, events and film weeks. Why are these important and what do they achieve?
Denis Samardzic: Children's Film Festival (Dječiji Film Festival) is the largest and longest film festival for children, UFOL – International Festival of Engaged Film (Međunarodni festival angažovanog filma) and FFDO - Author's Film Festival for Primary and Secondary Schools (Festival autorskog filma za osnovne i srednje škole) are just part of the festivals we are planning, organising and evaluating with our own resources.
In this way the constant and potential audience has the opportunity, when planning what kind of entertainment they are spending their money on, to choose the movie culture, because for the same planned budget beside cinema projection they can experience new and completely different experiences through accompanying content (workshops, open forums, conversation before or after film screenings, 'coffee with' programmes etc.)
On the other hand, this kind of action provides us recognition in the region, new contacts within all segments of film industry and gives us new opportunities, and strengthened co-operation with educational institutions.
FNE: What is the role of Europa Cinemas for cinemas such as your cinema and why is it important?
Denis Samardzic: The role of Europa Cinemas is very important so as cinemas and multiplexes with less cinema screens remain competitive with other programmes than the programmes subordinated to blockbuster production in large multiplex chains, that are increasingly aggressive on our market.
In countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, multiplexes and cinemas, which are private companies, cannot receive any culture support from any level of authority, as the funds are exclusively reserved for non-governmental organisations and public institutions.
Therefore, the role of Europa Cinemas gives us an additional negotiating position in communication with representatives of all relevant ministries of culture and sponsors in order to decentralise cultural events in our country and redirect part of funds from administrative centers to smaller communities and regions for all types of cultural events as well as film art.
FNE: How does a cinema like yours serve the local community?
Denis Samardzic: Although local government support is insignificant and the policy itself is geared towards funding public institutions and cultural programmes of non-governmental organisations, all fields of action in culture that local authorities cannot or do not want to cover, our facility assumes as its task within its capabilities.
So we were the holder of special activities like free projections for children from flooded areas in 2014 and free projections for children with special needs. In 2017, when the population of the city faced extreme cold for more than three weeks without heating, we took advantage of our own heating and provided for all the disadvantaged categories free movie screenings, tea and shelter from the cold.
Additionally, our creative team is striving every day to offer new content that is continuous including free photography courses and Behave culturally educational lessons.
FNE: Can you say something about your work with young audiences?
Denis Samardzic: In cooperation with the young audience, we particularly emphasize the innovative approach of the platform, of which we are the initiator and bearer, Culture and Sport Day in Zenica through a public private partnership with public institutions of culture and sports in our city (Museum of the City Zenica, Bosnian National Theatre BNP Zenica, City Arena and the city football stadium).
Four thousand pupils and students from other cities visited our facility during this programme during 2016. Additional activities are carried out with the Faculty of Pedagogy in Zenica including public forums, thematic lectures, practice of students from the Department of Culture in our Cinema and so on.
FNE: What about the digitalisation of cinemas? How it is affecting your work and your cinema?
Denis Samardzic: Unfortunately, the process of digitalisation has not been completed and we cover it in a way that we occasionally rent a projector for a digitalised screening. The reason for that is the high cost of digital projectors and the adverse interest rates by banks to raise credits when investing in equipment. The digitalisation process proved to be revolutionary because it provided easier access to EU production films and facilitated the technical organisation of the festivals.