Press meeting in the Assembly of the City of Belgrade (Photo: Nenad Šugić)
Press meeting in the Assembly of the City of Belgrade (Photo: Nenad Šugić)

The 57th Bitef edition will take place between 3rd and 10th October in Belgrade under the slogan “Strength, Don’t Let Yourself Be Anyone’s”. With nine performances in the main programme, this year’s Bitef will present courageous and brave productions from Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, Burkina Faso, Belgium and Serbia.

Team of selectors and the main programme

The director of Bitef Festival, Miloš Latinović, presented this year’s festival selectors: artistic director Nikita Milivojević, dramaturge and co-selector Tijana Grumić, and producer and co-selector Ksenija Đurović.

At the press conference, Nikita Milivojević spoke about collective effort on making the selection, which implies a democratic spirit and the contribution of various perspectives from which contemporary art can be seen.

“For me, Bitef is continuity. Many people built something into this festival long before we came. In that respect, I owe a debt of gratitude to my colleague Ivan Medenica, the previous artistic director, with whom we have agreed to keep one of his ideas for this festival edition”, Milivojević stated.

Team of selectors: Ksenija Đurović, Nikita Milivojević, and Tijana Grumić (Photo: Nenad Šugić)
Team of selectors: Ksenija Đurović, Nikita Milivojević, and Tijana Grumić (Photo: Nenad Šugić)

The idea in question is Bitef-Prologue, which links this Bitef with last year’s one. Therefore, the audience will have a chance to see the performance Divine Comedy directed by Frank Castorf, in the production of Belgrade Drama Theatre, selected by Ivan Medenica.

Besides this performance, which will not be a part of the competition, the main programme will present eight more. The festival will open on 4th October by the German performance Children of the Sun by Maxim Gorky, directed by the Slovenian director Mateja Koležnik, in the production of Schauspielhaus Bochum.

“Set in a hyperrealist stage design, this performance brings an exciting and psychologically nuanced approach to Children of the Sun”, Tijana Grumić stated. “Since one of the festival missions is to promote new young authors and poetics, we are happy to have the performance Goodbye, Lindita from the National Theatre of Greece, directed by Mario Banushi, a Greek director of Albanian origin. This is only his second professional direction. Through the topic of funerary customs in the Balkans, Mario Banushi tells a unique story of dealing with the loss of loved ones.”

Children of the Sun (Photo: Matthias Horn)
Children of the Sun (Photo: Matthias Horn)

One of the two performances from the domestic production is All Adventurous Women Do by Tanja Šljivar and directed by Selma Spahić, in the production of Atelje 212 theatre.

“Focusing on the problem of generation gap and the lack of care of older generations for the young, while reminding us of the fact that young people’s opinions are in these regions often neglected, this performance fits right into this year’s selection”, Grumić explained, mentioning also the Hungarian performance Singing Youth, one of the two “music” performances at 57th Bitef.

“This a cappella operetta tells the story of the past 70 years in the tumultuous Hungarian history, focusing on the fact that art and music play the key role in the promoting of the ruling structures ideologies, but also in the rebellion of the young”, Grumić said.

The festival producer and co-selector, Ksenija Đurović, presented the other “music” performance at this year’s Bitef. It is the Lithuanian opera Sun and Sea by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė, which takes place at the beach and addresses the issue of global ecological disaster.

„We always gladly mention that this work presented Lithuania at the 58th Venice Biennale and won the first prize, the Golden Lion, so the venue where it will take place at Bitef - Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, the gallery of the Association of Fine Artists of Serbia - is linked to the multidisciplinary nature of this extraordinary work“, Đurović said.

Sun and Sea (Photo: Andrej Vasilenko)
Sun and Sea (Photo: Andrej Vasilenko)

The third domestic performance at this year’s Bitef is Desire to Make A Solid History Will End Up In Failure, by the choreographer Igor Koruga in cooperation with Milica Ivić and six pioneers of the dance scene - Anđelija Todorović, Nela Antonović, Sanja Krsmanović Tasić, Tatjana Pajović, Jelena Jović, and Boris Čakširan.

“Produced by Station - service for contemporary dance, the performance is one of the results of Koruga’s years-long exploration of the history of the development of the dance scene in the country, and the re-examination of the conditions of work and life of the ones who took part in the making of the scene, and whose work is maintained by no one but themselves. Drawing attention to the phenomenon of disarray in the field of dance, Bitef is trying to contribute to the struggle against further marginalization of contemporary dance practices“, Đurović said.

She added that the festival team is particularly happy to see Anja Suša, a former festival selector, return to Bitef, this time as the director of the Swedish performance #Jeanne, based on the text by Ivana Sajko, one of the most relevant Croatian authors.

“Like a contemporary Joan of Arc, Jeanne is also trying to lead the weak in their struggle against the powerful, set within the struggle against social inequalities, environmental catastrophe and injustice”, Đurović stated.

Wakatt (Photo: Sophie Garcia)
Wakatt (Photo: Sophie Garcia)

In the end, the performance Wakatt, by Serge Aimé Coulibaly, the author and choreographer from Burkina Faso, who has been living in Belgium since 2002 was presented.

“Coulibaly’s starting point for Wakatt was the fear of the other. Inspired (or devastated) by socio-political circumstances, the dance by Faso Dance comes from the movements motivated by fear and panic that come out in the form of aggression and violence”, Đurović added. “Ten performers draw us into the struggle against colonialism, revealing the dark side of mankind before our eyes, as if asking the audience if that is enough for a rebellion”.

All about the main and the side programmes of the festival will be announced on the festival website, and social networks Facebook and Instagram.

Slogan and Visual Identity

The artistic director of the festival, Nikita Milivojević, revealed that this year’s slogan of the festival “Strength, Don’t Let Yourself Be Anyone’s” is a line from a poem from the collection of poems by Radmila Petrović, a young and successful poet.

This line represents a good link between all the performances in the main programme, all of which, through their various perspectives, poetics, and art practices, shed some light on marginalized communities, contest hegemonic structures, and put emphasis on the resilience of the human spirit.

57th Bitef: Visual Identity
57th Bitef: Visual Identity

Behind the visual identity is New Moment New Ideas Company. As stated by Veljko Golubović, the executive creative director of this agency, the work selected from some fifty submitted ones from the whole region, was made by Ivan Savić, art director from Belgrade.

“Bitef has always been something different in comparison to all the other festivals, both in former Yugoslavia and in Serbia”, Golubović added. “With Bitef, you always have this feeling that you are in the frontline of cultural and civilization line, that you are observing all the events from the first row, that you are a part of that story.”

Bitef - re-examination, dialogue, world

“Bitef is an event of utmost importance for the City of Belgrade”, Nataša Mihailović Vacić, the city secretary for culture, said. “It is a theatre festival whose courage to re-examine new ideas and theatre tendencies has stepped across the borders of Serbia, former Yugoslavia, but the entire continent, too”.

Radovan Jokić, the assistant minister for contemporary art, congratulated all the Bitef associated for maintaining the festival community spirit.

“Bitef is a place for re-examination, a reputable centre for dialogue. For, what is art if not communication”, Jokić added. “It is one of the most important markers of contemporary trends in the country and in the world. Bitef is a window into the world events”.

Like every year, the festival is supported by the Secretariat for Culture of the City of Belgrade and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany, and Goethe Institute. The partner and friend of Bitef is also New Moment New Ideas Company, the creative agency of the festival. The partners this year are Generali Insurance Serbia, Erste Bank a.d. Novi Sad, and the friends of the Festival are 1664 Blanc and Somersby.