Mušinović: We have strengthened the local cultural scene

On the occasion of the AJB DOC Film Festival's visiting Konjic, we spoke with the director of the Center for Culture.

Mušinović: We have strengthened the local cultural scene

 By: Nadira Dacić

Benjamin Mušović is the director of the Center for Culture "Narodni Univerzitet Konjic" which also includes the City Library, the Homeland Museum and the Birth House of Zuko Džumhur. It has for many years stood out as a successful cultural institution in an environment that does not pay attention to excuses, lack of resources and obstacles and even in the context of a global pandemic continues to organize a variety of cultural activities. 

The reason for the conversation with the director of the Center is the cooperation between AJB DOC Film Festival and the Center for Culture, as well as the first screenings of documentaries from the second edition of the AJB Festival within the event „Summer in Konjic“ outside the usual festival time and outside of Sarajevo, the original festival location.

The circumstances related to the corona virus pandemic influenced this year's organization of the event „Summer in Konjic“ in terms of programs and activities. How do you overcome the new challenges?

We never stopped working. The public events and programs we had prepared were paused - as was the whole world - in early March this year. We focused on interior design and acquired new skills that made the ambience of our work space more pleasant. I have to admit that it is hard, because we had to postpone many planned programs which relate to the cooperation at the regional level, as well as meetings with artists from Europe.

So far, within our „Summer in Konjic“, we have organized programs intended to “refresh the space” in front of the most beautiful scenery we have in Konjic - our old bridge -where we organized performances, exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances.

You successfully show that culture can and must be decentralized, but you also address all social groups, from the young to the old. Have you noticed a positive social shift in response to your activities, compared to the beginnings?

At the very beginning, I felt a certain amount of scepticism on the part of those who had great prejudice toward small communities. That is changing significantly. You can now see in my city people coming from different parts of the world. They show even greater enthusiasm. They can see how clean the city is and what a privilege is in the 21. century to be able to swim in the water that you can safely drink at the same time.

I was thinking what else to add to complete this mosaic. We decided that everything we do has to be of a high quality, because our audience and our guests deserve it. All our guests are happy to come back to us again. I can tell you that they return with even better performances, because they feel responsibility towards the audience, which has already acquired certain taste and raised the bar of expectations.

It is much easier now than at the beginning. Artists communicate and promote Konjic throughout the region as a place of hospitable people. The most important is that our guests share what they experience here. Various artists, ensembles and institutions are much more interested now. They are contacting us themselves asking to be our guests.

In addition to the regional theatre scene within your „Actor's Festival“, this year you decided to offer the audience a slightly different film and documentary program. Where does this additional diversity come from?

One of the most important activities of our institution is cinema screening. We have worked a lot on the project of renovating our cinema equipment and today we reached the quality level enabling us to present the most recent world cinema production. We cooperate with the most important distributors, but at the same time we try to pay tribute to domestic filmmakers, who have internationalized the BiH cultural scene with their awards and successes.

We also have an obligation and responsibility towards the tradition of our city. We used to have a photo-video club in Konjic. The name of our city was popularised by the authors of mostly documentary films: Dino Kassalo, Senadin Begtašević, Sead and Zlatko Đikić, Zoran Krezić and others. There are many young authors today who may not be sufficiently organized, but create fascinating videos and take almost professional photographs. They are working hard to promote the potential that Konjic can offer to the whole world.

I've been thinking about our technical possibilities, the mentioned tradition, the current work of today's artists in Konjic and how it would be nice and important to strengthen the local cultural scene with the program of the documentary festival held in our capital, which is only 40 minutes away. The themes that permeate the repertoire of the AJB DOC Film Festival are sensitized to the life of an ordinary person, and we are natural, normal and modest people, we have empathy for other and different. I would like to thank the organizers for their understanding and positive response. Thanks to that, we will have screenings of five films at the event called "AJB DOC@ Konjic" from 15 to 28 July 2020.

Can the audience be further educated and sensitized to certain issues through documentary films?

All these great life stories brought by AJB DOC have, in my opinion, one fundamental mission and that is to show reality as it is, to update problems that the world persistently does not want to resolve and - perhaps most importantly in the mission of a documentary filmmaker - they allow the word and the voice of "ordinary people" to be heard on the air.

We have had some difficult experiences and we are part of those stories. We want - if not now, then in the future - to organize accompanying discussions about all the films we get, because we believe that this live interaction with audience, when one is able to listen the actors and creators, is the best model of education for our audience, both for our own and, I hope, their experience as well.