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Sarajevo's film festival marks 20th birthday with record line-up

By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Sarajevo's film festival, founded as an act of defiance while the city was besieged during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, marks its 20th anniversary on Friday with its biggest line-up of movies.

Nine films are competing for the top Heart of Sarajevo Award, among them Kosovo's "Three Windows And A Hanging" about a school teacher giving an account of her rape during the conflict.

Other contenders for the for the 16,000-euro ($21,397) award come from Georgia, Turkey, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, Austria, Germany, Hungary and France.

Festival director Mirsad Purivatra said future events would look even further afield for competitors.

"I think the Festival is entering a new phase in which we want to build a stronger bond between the region and the rest of the world," he said, adding the event had been building contacts in the Middle East, Mexico, India, Lebanon and North Africa.

The Sarajevo Film Festival has grown into the largest event of its kind in the Balkans and draws around 100,000 fans to the Bosnian capital every year. This year's program lists nearly 250 films from 60 countries.

The jury will be chaired by Hungary's Bela Tarr, who retired from directing films after the release of "The Turin Horse" in 2011.

The event will hand out honorary awards to Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, French designer and filmmaker Agnes B. and Oscar-winning Bosnian director Danis Tanovic.

French director Michel Hazanavicius, best known for "The Artist", and Hungary's director Kornel Mundruczo will also present their Cannes festival contenders, respectively "The Search" and "White God".

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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