58TH BITEF: BEAUTY WILL (NOT) SAVE THE WORLD

This year's edition of BITEF, no. 58, will be taking place from 25th September to 4th October under the slogan "Beauty Will (Not) Save the World". The main programme will introduce the Belgrade audience to productions hailing from Germany, France, Switzerland, Bolivia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

Ten performances in the main programme!

At today's press conference, held at the National theatre in Belgrade, speakers included Miloš Latinović - BITEF director, Nikita Milivojević - artistic director and curator, Ksenija Đurović - BITEF executive director and co-curator, Tijana Grumić - dramaturge and BITEF co-curator, Veljko Golubović - New Moment New Ideas agency, Belgrade executive creative director and Jovana Vještica - Carlsberg Serbia company corporate affairs manager, on behalf of the general sponsor of the festival, 1664 Blanc.

58TH BITEF: BEAUTY WILL (NOT) SAVE THE WORLD

Miloš Latinović welcomed the press, expressing deep gratitude to the festival founder, the City of Belgrade, and Nataša Mihailović Vacić, secretary for culture of the City of Belgrade. He stressed the importance of nurturing good relations with the festival partners, noting that it is with great pleasure that he can announce 1664 Blanc as the festival's general sponsor, building on the success of last year's collaboration. He then announced the curating team of the festival - Nikita Milivojević, Tijana Grumić and Ksenija Đurović.

Revealing the first details of the main programme, the artistic director Nikita Milivojević announced that 58th BITEF will open with the dance performance Mellowing by The Dance On Ensemble from Berlin, in co-production with Onassis Stegi from Greece and the National Choreographic Centre Rillieux-la-Pape from France, in a choreography by the Greek artist Christos Papadopoulos. Members of the Dance On Ensemble are well known by the BITEF audience - the first collaboration with Papadopoulos thematically examines maturing. How does the body soften, and how does it change as it matures? This is the focal question for the performers, distinguished among their peers as dancers over the age of 40. 

58TH BITEF: BEAUTY WILL (NOT) SAVE THE WORLD

Following its world premiere at the prestigious theatre festival in Avignon in the beginning of July, Hecuba, Not Hecuba by the famous Comédie-Française from Paris arrives at BITEF. Milivojević emphasised that this is the first time this theatre, with its centuries of tradition, will make an appearance in front of the audience of our region, taking special pride in the fact that this collaboration is taking place in the year marking a century from the birth of Mira Trailović. He added that BITEF will also feature another premiere - participation of the Portuguese artist Thiago Rodrigues, who has recently become the artistic lead of the Avignon festival. Rodrigues has actualised the myth of Hecuba and her children in an original manner, connecting it to the contemporary true story about a specialised institution for children with autism in Geneva and a mother who, in an effort to protect her child, sued them after allegations of abuse became public.

Dramaturge and co-curator of the festival Tijana Grumić revealed that the festival will close with the highly awarded Cadela Força Trilogy: Chapter I - The Bride and the Goodnight Cinderella, performance by the Brazilian-Dutch artist Carolina Bianchi and her dance company Cara de Cavalo from Brazil. This intriguing work has been featured at all of the leading European and world festivals, with both critics and audiences describing the author's radical approach to the topic of sexual violence as impactful. Bianchi starts with the story of rape through the prism of art history, expanding this context with her own experience of sexual violence - yet, she goes one step further by taking GHB (popular substance slipped to the victims, used to physically incapacitate them before the attack) on stage, in order to reconstruct the situation when she was drugged by the same substance on a night out.

Brazil will also feature in Antigone in the Amazon by the City Theatre NTGent from Belgium, Grumić added. This performance re-examines another ancient, mythical female character, using contemporary context, thus changing the optics of interpretation. Famous Belgian director Milo Rau, well loved by the BITEF audience, closes his trilogy that reinterprets ancient myths with this piece. For the purposes of this work, Milo Rau and his team travelled to Brazil, where forests and nature are being devoured by capitalism and fire, where 1% of the population owns 45% of the land, and collaborated with the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores sem Terra), the greatest movement of agricultural workers with no land ownership.

Grumić introduced another South American project from the main programme - Palmasola - a Prison Village, project of Kristoffer Frick, produced by KLARA Theaterproduktionen from Bazel (Switzerland), based on a perennial research of one of the most infamous prisons in the world, the so-called prison village Palmasola in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. This prison was built in the late '80 of the XX century, with more than 6000 men and women residing behind its walls currently. Only around 25% of the inmates have ever been officially convicted. The rest are being kept in a form of preventative detention. Frik and his team have been the only art company to gain access to Palmasola to this day, the experience forming the core of the piece.

Executive director and co-curator of the festival Ksenija Đurović spoke of the three exceptional regional productions featured in the main programme. Lecture-performance Sex Education II: Fight of the young Slovenian director Tjaša Črnigoj, in co-production of the Mladinsko Theatre, Maska Ljubljana and City of Women deals with the topic of reproductive rights in the post-war Yugoslavia, reminding us of the important role of famous Vida Tomšić in this fight, simultaneously informing us of the contemporary context that defines it today.

58TH BITEF: BEAUTY WILL (NOT) SAVE THE WORLD

this is my truth, tell me yours is another lecture-performance in the programme of this year's festival, authored by Jasna Žmak, in production of the Centre for Drama Art Zagreb (Croatia) and organisations Via Negativa i City of Women from Ljubljana (Slovenia). This anxious playwright, alone on stage, tries to soothe her own inner turmoil, courageously and humorously narrating a story about the theatre process that caused her tinnitus, yet also exploring themes like misogyny, work in culture, homophobia, through her own experience as an author, but also in a wider context of the performing arts in general.

One of the two domestic productions in this year's main programme is We Are Going to Make Something About War, Gender and Liberty, It Will Be Titled: What Would Chelsea Say by authors and performers Irena Ristić and Đorđe Živadinović Grgur, made in production of Hop.La! group from Belgrade. This piece goes beyond the lecture-performance format for it is a theatre inquiry inspired by the American whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a trans woman and former intelligence officer of the United States Army. Peculiarity of this performance lies in the choice the audience will make - will they be mere spectators from behind the stage (sometimes even literally behind the curtain) or will they be active participants in the inquiry, becoming co-authors of sorts, contributing to the development of this exciting, important story by offering their own thoughts and insights?

Artistic director Nikita Milivojević presented two more productions constituting part of the main programme of the festival. Rupture, from the Ljubljana City Theatre, directed by Jan Krmelj, deals with topics such as the demise of the world brought on by the pandemic and ecological disaster, but also surveillance and control. It tells a story about two climate activists who perish under unknown circumstances, all the while shifting between the documentary and the fictional. The young Slovenian director recently received the prestigious Borštnik award for the direction of this play, so BITEF will serve as a platform to present this work to an international audience. 

Another local production is Future of the Belgrade Drama Theatre, in co-production with Ljubljana City Theatre, directed by Žiga Divjak, well known by the festival audience. Divjak continues his research of the dystopian visions of the world with this work, this time shifting the focus from anthropocentric to non-human experiences in a performance distinguished by a particular aesthetic and poetic.

All information about the main, but also various other programmes of the festival, will be available shortly at the official website of the festival, as well as on the social media Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Beauty Will (Not) Save the World

The curating team of the festival also presented this year's slogan - Beauty Will (Not) Save the World. Leaning into Dostoevsky who referred to the virtue and beauty of the soul as the saviour of the world, the slogan also highlights ethics, not only aesthetics as the primary category of beauty. However, the ambivalence of the slogan implies critical examination of the notion that anything - even as noble and sublime as beauty - can save the world that we're living in.

New Moment New Ideas Company is behind the visual identity of this year's festival. Veljko Golubović, executive creative director of the agency, revealed that they received dozens of designs from all over the region. The author of the best design, which defined the visual identity of the 58BITEF24, is Ema Velkovska, graphic designer of the New Moment Agency, Skoplje.

The author managed to represent the butterfly not only as a symbol of beauty, but also transformation, yet also expressed the delicacy of the particular condition we're all finding ourselves in, the one of foreboding, Golubović explained.

BITEF and 1664 Blanc - new chapter of collaboration

58TH BITEF: BEAUTY WILL (NOT) SAVE THE WORLD

Jovana Vještica, Carlsberg Serbia corporate affairs manager, noted that she is both pleased and honoured that 1664 Blanc is the general sponsor of this year's edition of BITEF, one of the greatest and most significant festivals in Serbia and Belgrade, that has played such an important role at the cultural scene of Belgrade for decades. 

Ms Vještica said that the audience may wonder about the connection between a beer brand and BITEF - 1664 Blanc premium is a wheat beer of a sophisticated flavour note, with caramel aroma and addition of citrus and coriander, but also unique packaging, making it a particular art in the brewing field. Aside from that, the brand is building its image through support to the arts in all the markets where it is sold as part of the Carlsberg company. In this sense collaboration with BITEF is something that occurred naturally, so the company holds hope that this will be only the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Patrons of the festival are the Secretariat for Culture of the City of Belgrade and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia. General sponsor of the 58th BITEF is 1664 Blanc. Traditionally, the festival has received support from the EU Delegation, Institut français and Goethe Institut. Partner and friend of the BITEF festival is the New Moment New Ideas Company, creative agency of the festival. Generali osiguranje Srbija, Erste Bank a.d. Novi Sad and Coca-Cola Hellenic Serbia are once again partners of the festival.