The Küstendorf International Film and Music Festival takes place every January in the fairytale town of Drvengrad up high on a Serbian mountain, presided over by the charismatic visionary Emir Kusturica.

A fixture on our Coolest Film Festivals in the World list, we have a blast every time we attend the funky, strange fest. This year, Greg Hamilton is blogging his adventures daily from Serbia over Küstendorf’s run, January 21-26.


The long journey into the Serbian evening was over. I’d been riding shotgun for over three hours as we wound our way into the mountains to attend the eighth annual Küstendorf International Film and Music Fesitval in Drvengrad. Riding with me were two students (Omar from Egypt and Isabel from the Netherlands) who have short films in competition.

Our drive led us from the urban kaleidoscope of Belgrade—with its mix of modernity and crumbling architecture—through the countryside villages and towns, and up into the snow- and fog-draped region that the festival calls home. We were all exhausted from hours of travel, but energized by the prospect of experiencing this unique and profoundly independent event.

Posters of previous iterations of the festival, now in its eighth year

Posters of previous iterations of the festival, now in its eighth year

Upon arrival, we were met by a festival photographer who captured us in all our jet-lagged glory. While this was a small touch, it was a reflection of the importance that this festival places on giving young filmmakers a moment in the spotlight. While there are several well-known directors and producers in attendance—including Alfonso Cuaron, Andrei Konchalovsky and Bertrand Tavernier—the foundational focus of this event is on encouraging the next generation of filmmakers, and inspiring them to break new ground.

After checking into my cabin, I wandered through the maze of rustic wooden structures and famously named streets, to the central hub of activity, Nikola Tesla Square, where a large stage had been erected for the opening night festivities—as well as a series of concerts that end each day. A band with a driving horn section was rehearsing the triumphant theme to Rocky… a fitting and inspirational soundscape for the cinematic newcomers who are just entering the ring.

An opening night winter concert to kick off five days of cinema

An opening night winter concert to kick off five days of cinema

Retiring to the Damned Yard Cafe, I slipped into a booth for a beer and a chance to pour over the schedule: 32 films in five days.

The fun starts tomorrow! MM

Stay tuned for more blog entries from the Küstendorf International Film and Music Festival. Visit the festival’s official website here.

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