SARAJEVO, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Although this year's Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF) held online on Aug. 14-21 gave Azer Guzin an opportunity to enjoy movies at home, the film fan still missed the experience of going out to cinemas.
"There is a special magic in the darkness of movie theaters, whether you go there alone or with someone. That magic can't be replaced or sent online," said Guzin, a lawyer living in Mostar, south of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The SFF started in 1995, towards the end of the four-year siege of Sarajevo, with an aim to revive the city's culture and art. It has been recognized as a leading film festival in the region by both professionals and audiences.
However, this year, the organizers faced a tough dilemma of whether to hold the festival amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to both protect public health and ensure the continuity of the festival, the organizers finally decided to put the event online, which disappointed many film professionals, movie fans as well as local business owners who usually look forward to the lucrative annual festival fever.
Cazim Dervisevic, a documentary filmmaker, said "the general idea of all festivals is to gather professionals from a certain industry and to inspire and motivate socializing."
"I don't think this year's SFF contributed much to that idea," said Dervisevic, who is also a videographer and journalist with almost two decades of experience in media and film.
Living in Czech capital Prague, the filmmaker said that in the past he even rescheduled his vacations so as to come to Sarajevo during the SFF.
Leila Kurbegovic, editor-in-chief of the culture program at the Sarajevo Canton Television, has been covering the SFF for several years.
"This year I had the unique opportunity to watch all movies without going to the movie theaters. Also, I had an easier access to all supporting press materials. That is something I would definitely like the SFF organizers to keep," she said.
"However, I find it much better to do interviews face-to-face," Kurbegovic said, explaining that online interviews are somewhat "cold" as she sees it.
Amra Mehic, a film director from Sarajevo, also missed the SFF held before the pandemic, which provided opportunities for film professionals to "get to know each other personally."
"This year, the SFF arranged a series of short online meetings instead but I doubt those will give any result," Mehic said.
The festival used to be a paradise for photographers, but things changed this year.
"I wasn't in Sarajevo during this year's SFF. I knew it will be online so I didn't expect any opportunity for a photoshoot like in previous years," said Dzenat Drekovic, a photographer.