This year International jury members, Iris Raffetseder, Nataša Barbara Gračner, Siniša Ilić, Joris Lacoste, and myself, Ana Vujanovic bestow two awards: Grand prix Mira Trailović for the best production, and Bitef Special Award Jovan Ćirilov for the outstanding contribution to theatre art.
We followed the festival with great curiosity and responsibility, sometimes relying more on our brains, sometimes our bodies were the main audience, while sometimes we just opened our hearts, depending on how the performances invited us to attend them. We accepted that game, because this is what performing arts are about - they gather people around what doesn’t exist and what then happens in the live passage from non-being to being to past-being, and to which we then react here-and-now, individually and as a temporary community. All the time we tried to detect how selected performances catch the Zeitgeist, create exceptional contribution to theatre art in terms of genre, style, or artistic means and media, or even look like initiating new tendencies by their contributions. It was not an easy task to decide the awards. Yet, we have just done it.
The jury has decided to award the Bitef Special Award Jovan Ćirilov to the performance Goodbye, Lindita, by Mario Banushi.
Goodbye, Lindita is an intimate story about the loss of the beloved ones, followed by mourning and funeral rituals, in which those who stay need to deal with the wounds and holes to continue living. It draws from the author’s own experience and memories from Albanian and Greek villages, and dives deep into the depth of the Balkan traditions, where these rituals gather people and suspend the moment of separation. With his masterful and delicate work with time, Banushi prolongs that moment so that his piece balances on the rope between life and death, community and solitude, mundane and sublime. The extended now is generous and let us, the audience join the situations on stage. Slowly and precisely, a sequence of associative images appear before our eyes and the author doesn’t haste to cut and edit them. They fade out into nothingness, from which they emerge, leaving us with the shades, memories, emotions, and unforgettable smell of incense. It is a brave artistic decision for such a young author. Although we highly evaluate Banushi’s directing, his work with the lights and music, and the performers on stage, Banushi’s talent, intuition, and craft in working with time and temporality stick out as an exceptional contribution to the performing arts.
And in relation to how we followed different performances differently, activating this or that sense, I would like to share that for the jury members the opening scene of the closet, where the memories of sorrow are stored in the form of dead body of a loved one, was fascinating enough to pause a bit our analytical approach and open our hearts. Banushi treated them with care.
Grand prix Mira Trailović for the best production this year goes to #Jeanne directed by Anja Susa, written by Ivana Sajko.
It is a rich theatre experience, which captivates us with its complexity. It is a fairy-tale about classes, heroes and revolutions, capitalism, and apocalypse, moving through the registers of history, phantasy, memory, self-criticism, and fortune-telling. The dramaturgical movement is not smooth; the performance doesn’t glide, and all the time we feel resistance and obstacles. They make us pause, stop, think, reflect, and cautiously make the next step. In the interstices and gaps a new heroine is born, a chimera, half-Jeanne D’arc half-Greta Thunberg, who is not an individual human being. She is an avatar, AI made out of our collective intelligence, our despair, and hope. When she dies in the performance, the director uses her artistic skills to make a politically impressive proposal - Jeanne depixelates and dissolves into a never-dying idea that enters our bodies. The little girl, Jeanne is a figure smarter than the whole piece and while everyone is resigned she triumphs by cancelling herself and becoming us. Thank you for not letting her go.
Mario Banushi is also this year's laureate of the Politika Award for the best director. In the play Goodbye, Lindita the boundary between the visible and invisible world is erased, the dead and the living share a common space, which can be understood as an expression of the idea of the eternity of the spirit, or the non-existence of real
Banushi's directorial approach brings emotional, dreamy, and poetically expressive glimpses of death and dealing with it, reads the explanation of the Politika jury for
the best director at 57th Bitef. The decision was reached unanimously by the following members of the jury: directors Andraš Urban and Veljko Mićunović, as well as representatives of the editorial of Politika Gordana Popović, the editor of the Culture section, Ana Tasić, theater critic, and Borka Golubović Trebješanin, journalist.
The Audience Award was given to the opera performance "Sun and Sea" by Lithuanian authors Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė