Saturday, May 11, 2013

BHFF ’13: Mirza Delibasic—the Legend

Mirza Delibašić vaguely resembled John Stockton and played a similar style of basketball.  He was a lethal outside shooter, who regularly racked-up the assists.  He also wore those old school short shorts.  Delibašić survived the Siege of Sarajevo, but eventually his own body would turn against him.  Miro Benković profiles Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sportsman of the Twentieth Century in the reverential Mirza Delibašić—the Legend (trailer here), which screened last night as part of the documentary competition at the 2013 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.

Delibašić won just about every championship he was allowed to compete in.  As part of the Yugoslavian national team, he won a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics.  He also led Bosnian teams to victory in the European and Intercontinental Cups.  Unfortunately, he was a half generation older than players like Dražn Petrović, who were the first to be allowed to sign fat contracts with NBA teams.  Still, he had some success playing for European powerhouse Real Madrid before health problems cut short his career.

It is not hard to understand why Delibašić is a national hero in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  One of the most striking images in Legend is a PSA Delibašić recorded shortly after the Siege in a bombed-out ruin he identifies as the country’s main television studio.  Actually, it would have been nice to have a bit more context on that.  Frankly, Legend is not the most technically polished documentaries and its organization makes my desk look neat as a pin.  Still, how many Mirza Delibašić documentaries do you get a chance to see in New York?

Without question, Benković puts Delibašić on a pedestal, never giving viewers any sense of the man’s private persona.  Nevertheless, Legend clearly struck a nostalgic chord with last night’s audience members, many of whom were humming along to the Delibašić tribute song heard several times during the course of the film.

Obviously, Legend connects with its target market.  It also clearly establishes Delibašić’s international significance as an athlete.  It would be interesting to see what filmmakers like Marius Markevicious (director of The Other Dream Team) or the team behind ESPN’s Once Brothers could make of his story.  Regardless, watching Mirza Delibašić—the Legend at BHFF opens up a real window into recent Bosnian-Herzegovinian experiences.  Definitely a fest deserving wider recognition amongst cineastes, the expanded BHFF continues tomorrow (5/11) with three blocks of programming.