When Kriterion Sarajevo opened on the 9th June this year it was not only the opening of the first cultural institution in Sarajevo since 1974 but also the culmination of years of hard work and dedication of many people across Europe. The plan to open an art house cinema in Sarajevo really took hold in 2005 and all involved worked tirelessly to achieve their vision. Cafe Babel Sarajevo spoke to Sadzida Tulic, one of the core members of Kriterion Sarajevo, about the history behind it. Kriterion goes back to post-World War II Netherlands where this foundation was established by a group of students as a means of rebellion and resistance against the stifling cinema of the era. Still today Kriterion has a strong presence in Amsterdam, especially among the student community and in the summer of 2005 two Dutch students who were involved with Kriterion came to Sarajevo to volunteer for the Film Festival. They realised that Sarajevo was lacking anything culturally similar to Kriterion and so they decided to help establish this here. The aim was to create a student run and student focused art house cinema, a pretty radical idea for Sarajevo then. The first step they took was to create an NGO – Young Urban Achievers, with the aim of fund-raising to help establish Kriterion here in Sarajevo. Through the NGO a core of 5 local volunteers was gathered.
Sadzida Tulic: “We are here to create a change”
Through the local team Kriterion started working toward the reality of creating a cinema. They commenced the search for a location, a complicated and difficult bureaucratic process in Sarajevo. They began fundraising, in BiH and elsewhere in Europe and most importantly they created a programme of monthly film screenings, renting different cinemas in Sarajevo (like Kino Bosna or Meeting Point) in order to establish an audience who knew about Kriterion. They established the Kriterion Kino Club, a way to bring together different people involved with film throughout the region for 3-5 day events showcasing different films, as well as organising relevant debates and lectures. In 2008 a location was finally decided upon, the old Kino Tesla, which was the first purpose built cinema in Sarajevo. It took years of negotiation and months of reconstruction to create the fantastic space that it is today. Of course no reconstruction goes smoothly and when there was no money for seats for the cinema or furniture for the bar different European embassies generously provided grants, and the public donated furniture to ensure that this dream could finally become a reality.
Kriterion is truly innovative and shows that if you are really passionate about something then anything is possible
9th June 2011 marked the official opening of Kriterion in Sarajevo and it showcases films, music, monthly art exhibitions and debates. Despite appearances, it is not your typical art house cinema, it is a platform for students to claim something for themselves, for them to get involved with the culture of their city. It is student run, from cleaning the bathrooms, developing the cultural programme, working as film projectionists and learning everything from the begginning, even how to make a good coffee. Employment here is rotating, students earn a decent salary but only stay on temporarily, stepping back to allow new people with new ideas come and continue the development of Kriterion Sarajevo. There is no hierarchy in this cultural center. Sadzida will be taking a step back from her involvement in the Kriterion cinema but you can be sure to see here there regularly, having a coffee and chatting to the staff. It is not easy to fully remove yourself from such an organisation but the next generation will be there to step in, bringing a fresh outlook and new energy to Kriterion Sarajevo. She really believes in the possibilities that Kriterion presents, not only for students but for the whole cultural scene in Sarajevo. Kriterion is truly innovative and shows that if you are really passionate about something then anything is possible.
What next in Kriterion: 'Article 1', the next art exhibition at Kriterion, runs from the 20th/21st July and is about the history of the LGBT community. This exhibition is from 5 major Swedish museums, the Nobel Museum, the Science Museum, the Military Museum etc and is coming to Sarajevo on a tour through the Balkans.