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Balkanize! is HIFF’s quality selection of interesting and topical dramas from the Balkans. The highlight of the series is the Palme d’Or 2014 winner WINTER SLEEP. Robert Budina, the director of Albania’s Oscar nominee AGON which is screened in the Balkanize! series will visit the festival.

WINTER SLEEP by Turkish master director Nuri Bilge Ceylanin is situated in the snow-covered mountain scenery of his home country. The protagonist of the film, Aydin, is a rich, retired actor, who manages a hotel in the countryside and longs for a change. His lousy marriage is falling apart, his wife is frustrated and even the inhabitants of the mountain village hate him. According to Variety, with the running time of 196 minutes, Ceylan’s relationship drama is the least boring 3-hour film ever made.

Darko Lungulov’s MONUMENT TO MICHAEL JACKSON is a black comedy in which a barber called Marko dreams of building a statue of Michael Jackson would be built in his remote Serbian village. Marko hopes that the monument would bring about positive change, attracting hoards of tourists, invigorating the small village and most important of all, make his wife forget about her thoughts of divorce, seeing him in a different light.

In XENIA , two Albanian-Greek brothers haven’t met in a while when the younger one, Dany, appears at his older brother’s door in Greece bringing sad news: their mother is dead. Dany also has other plans: to get his brother to participate in a TV singing contest, and find their long-lost father. Panos H. Koutras Xenia is an interesting depiction of contemporary Greece, where xenophobia and homophobia define the lives of the main characters.

COWBOYS is a comedy based on a hugely popular Croatian play in which the protagonist tries to direct a play with a totally useless cast. All five persons arriving to the audition are cast, even though both their social skills and their acting skills leave a lot to be desired. Because Western is the only genre they are all familiar with, that’s the kind of a play they decide to do.

BARBARIANS provides a powerful view of a young generation of Serbians whose options for independent and happy lives are scarce. The Belgrade Mladenovac football team has the possibility to rise from the second league to the main one, but their violent fans pose a threat. When a rock hits one of the black players of the team, Luka and Flash are the main suspects.

AGON, written and directed by Albanian Robert Budina, is a story of Albanian brothers who try their best to adjust to their new home country of Greece. The older brother, Saimir, wants to lead a steady life with his fiancé Elektra, whereas the younger one, Vini, tries to find happiness in an impossible and even life-threatening relationship with a prostitute called Majlind. Budina has previously directed short films and his first feature film, Agon, is Albania’s 2014 Oscar nominee. He will visit the festival 18–21 September. Before shooting the film, Budina and his actors travelled to Greece and tried to adjust to the culture to gain psychological depth in the characters.

BOTA is situated in a small, secluded café in a distant swampland. A group of people with complicated relationships meet and work in this godforsaken place. The film is directed by Albanian Iris Elezi and Albanian-American Thomas Logoreci.

The Balkanize! -selection is presented in collaboration with the European Commission as part of its information campaign on enlargement of the European Union (EU). To find out more about the enlargement of the European Union and the countries in the process, please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement