The third media conference on the double edition of the 54th and 55th Bitef, which will take place 13-25 September 2021, was held at Kombank Dvorana (Kombank Hall) in Belgrade. The media conference was addressed by Bitef Theatre Director Miloš Latinović, Ambassador of Belgium to Serbia Koen Adam, Bitef Festival Artistic Director Ivan Medenica, Daliborka Nikolić from the EU Info Centre, and actress Vesna Čipčić.
Miloš Latinović thanked everyone who took part in the preparation of the festival, bearing in mind the fact that the circumstances were far from regular. He said that we are living and working in a time when it is not easy to predict things, so the fact that the upcoming Bitef will be implemented as planned is a great achievement. He asked the media and audience for their understanding if there are unplanned changes to the programme due to the deteriorating pandemic situation in Serbia.
Ambassador of Belgium to Serbia Koen Adam thanked the Bitef team for presenting for years the most significant Belgian contemporary theatre and dance authors and companies (Ultima Vez, Alain Platel, Jan Fabre, etc.) adding that in this context the Belgrade audience might become spoiled. Speaking of the Belgian production that will take place in the main programme this year, the Traces project by the Ultima Vez company and its founder, choreographer Wim Vandekeybus, he pointed out that Vandekeybus is an old acquaintance and friend of both Belgrade and Bitef, as well as winner of the Grand Prix “Mira Trailović”. Traces will be performed at the official opening of Bitef, on September 15, at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in Belgrade, and like other Vandekeybus’ projects, it addresses pressing issues in the contemporary world - this time the environmental crisis.
Daliborka Nikolić from the EU Info Centre expressed her satisfaction that even in such challenging times the European Union has managed to support Bitef, making it the fourth year in a row. The European Union, has provided the most funding to Bitef, after the founders, the City of Belgrade Assembly and the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia.
Bitef Artistic Director Ivan Medenica announced the first production to be shown as part of the prologue of the 54th and 55th Bitef - the premiere of Living Room, by one of the most significant German directors of the younger generation, Ersan Mondtag, created as a coproduction between the Belgrade Drama Theatre and Bitef Theatre. Speaking of the play, Medenica said that it is a spectacular merger of camp aesthetics and magical realism. In this formal frame, in his opinion, the author develops a melancholic story about fleetingness, aging, loss of youthful hopes and ideals, and death. Even though covering the span from the 1990s to the present, the play does not directly deal with political topics. For example, it does not raise the issue of the responsibility of Slobodan Milošević’s regime for the wars of the 1990s, but it does develop the thesis that women are the greatest victims of war - regardless of which side their men are on.
Vesna Čipčić, the main actress in Living Room, pointed out that this production is in a way the crown jewel of the past season at the Belgrade Drama Theatre, one of the most successful ones in recent times, which was dominated precisely by “Bitef-like” aesthetics. She shared her impressions from the process of creating the play, especially the challenge of acting without lines, which she found to be liberating.
In presenting the foreign guests who will be coming to Bitef this year, Ivan Medenica pointed out that there is great international interest, which is confirmed by the presence of directors from several leading theatres and foreign festivals, journalists and critics from around the world. Almut Wagner, Chief Dramaturge of the Residenz Theater from Munich, Didier Juillard, Programme Director of the Odeon Theatre in Paris, Stefanie Carp, curator of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival, Tomasz Kireńczuk from the National Stary Theatre based in Kraków, Marina Davydova, Artistic Director of the NET festival in Moscow, and many others have confirmed their attendances. Medenica pointed out that the Bitef team has made special efforts to bring these guests, so that the local theatre scene, which is present in the Bitef main programme with as many as four productions, could also present itself in a broader international context, where it has been insufficiently present for a long time.
Also coming to Belgrade, for the We Are Sitting on a Branch: Solidarity or Downfall international environmental conference, are significant philosophers such as Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Boris Buden, and Srećko Horvat, and artists such as Janez Janša, Haris Pašović, and Wim Vandekeybus.
This year the festival’s panel of judges will consist solely of women, as a sign of support for the “women’s movement”, the struggle against sexual violence and harassment of women. It is made up of Shermin Langhoff, Artistic Director of the Maxim Gorki Theatre from Berlin (Chairwoman), Lucia van Heteren, Senior Lecturer at the University of Groningen, Agata Juniku theatre critic and Professor at the University of Zagreb Academy of Dramatic Art, Cecilia Djurberg, critic and journalist, and Jovana Tomić, theatre director.
The festival will be officially opened by Serbian actress and environmental activist Svetlana “Ceca” Bojković.
Tickets can be bought online through the website www.bitef.rs. Online purchase receives 10% discount. If unable to make online purchase, you can buy the tickets at Bitef Box Office in Kombank Dvorana, on the first floor (Nikola Pašić Square).
COVID-19 UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE RIGHT TO CHANGES
Bitef programme is organized in compliance with all coronavirus protection measures. The number of tickets released for sale is in line with the current epidemic situation and current protection measures. In case of an unfavourable situation and change of measures, Bitef reserves the right to change the programme and conditions determined when buying tickets. There may be changes in the numbering of purchased tickets or cancellation of tickets with a refund. All possible changes will be published on the festival's website and social networks.
We appeal to a high level of individual responsibility and solidarity of each person and we count on your understanding and patience, so that we can all be safe and secure.
The festival is traditionally supported by the City of Belgrade Secretariat for Culture and the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, the Goethe Institute, and the French Institute in Belgrade. Once again, this year Bitef’s partner and friend is I&F Group, within which the festival’s creative agency McCann Belgrade operates. The partners yet again are Erste Bank a.d. Novi Sad and long-standing friend of the festival Coca-Cola Hellenic Serbia.