Tonight, the world premiere of Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace opened the 16th Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis.

The festival was officially opened by Rajko Petrović, the director of the festival, as well as the selectors Branka Popović and Ivan Bakrač.

Guests of honor at the opening were the representatives of the environmental movement Save the Stara Planina Rivers. They were greeted with thunderous applause from the audience at the great hall of Kombank Dvorana.

Rajko Petrović announced the opening film, a solo concert by Nick Cave, one of the greatest musicians of our times, which was shot after the first wave of Covid 19 and which, according to the director of the festival, ‘matches the current feelings and atmosphere in our society perfectly’.

-This year’s program has been the most diverse and ambitious one so far, with about 70 films that will be shown in cinemas and on an online film platform called – said Petrovic.

Branka Pavlović, the selector of the International Program, explained that the unifying themes of this year’s program are the power of writing, the catharsis of communication, as well as the importance of harmony with nature and solidarity with one’s environment. This year’s film characters are ‘ordinary people’ – visionaries and wizards, shamans and water fairies, guardians and keepers of memories. The audience will rejoice and enjoy the films that will, hopefully, provide comfort.

Ivan Bakrač, a selector of the Regional Program Horizons of the Balkans, said that, throughout history, the Balkans have been a perpetually turbulent place, and that, at a time like this, when the whole world is struggling with Covid, and we have more of our own problem on top of that, it is truly remarkable that the Balkan filmmakers have managed to successfully finish their films which we will be able to see at this year’s festival. Bakrač encouraged the audience to reconsider their priorities through these films and to think about what the word ‘home’ really means to them.

Having thanked the partners of the festival, the director of the Free Zone Film Festival announced this year’s newspaper – the New Industry Program Digital Propeller, started in cooperation with the Media Desk of Serbia  and with the support of the Serbian Film Center.

A new portion of the program titled The Green Zone, which tackles the topic of environmental protection and societal awareness of this issue, was particularly appealing to the audience.

Consequently, the festival officially started an environmental protection movement called Save the Stara Planina Rivers. On behalf of this movement, Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta addressed the audience, expressing his gratitude and honor for having the opportunity to open the festival.

Aleksandar Jovanović said that the movement was founded four years ago, when the rivers in which the residents of Stara Planina spent their childhood were attacked. This environmental struggle has suffered many obstacles, from legal ones to physical confrontation.

In the beginning, the movement had only 5 members. Today it has 120,000.

After four years, the rivers of Stara Planina are officially free, according to the decision of the local self-governing unit of the City of Pirot.

In the end, Jovanovic said the following – If you wish to live in a country with clean rivers, clean forests and clean air, you will have to fight for it and prepare for the ecological ‘March on the Drina’. With this conclusion, the Free Zone Film Festival has officially been opened.