19th Annual South East European Film Festival kicked-off with honorable leaders attending, and Pascal Ladreyt (Executive Director of ELMA, Foundation of European Movies in America) receiving the prestigious 2024 Legacy Award before screening the Opening Night Film “GUARDIANS OF THE FORMULA”

By Oliver Carnay

The 19th Annual South East European Film Festival kicked-off with a packed red carpet Gala last Wednesday, May 1st, at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills, with the Opening Night Film and Los Angeles Premiere of GUARDIAN OF THE FORMULA (winner of Variety’s Piazza Grande Award at the 2023 Locarno Film Festival). The film, directed by Serbian powerhouse director Dragan Bjelogrlic, the Serbian-French co-production is a “knotty true story of the first human bone marrow transplant shaped into a superbly mounted ethical thriller,” according to Variety. A reception followed the screening.

The gala event included the presentation of the 2024 SEEfest Legacy Award to Pascal Ladreyt,  founder of the European cinema foundation ELMA which champions and supports European creative forces in Hollywood (elma.org). French born Ladreyt and his wife Paulina started the foundation at their home in Santa Monica, and today ELMA stands as the pillar of the arthouse European cinema presence in Hollywood. ELMA provides key support for European film festivals, other film showcases that include movies from Europe, and programs for young audiences. It collaborates with a broad network of diplomatic offices and consulates, local authorities, as well as other passionate and dedicated individuals who believe that cinematic language is universal, and that movies facilitate discovery of new ideas, people, cultures and places.

From May 1st through May 8th, the competition festival will showcase movies from this culturally rich area in the East and Southeast Europe with a selection of features, documentaries and short films. Also included are seminars, panels and workshops.  For festival schedule, please go to www.seefilmla.org or at https://seefest2024.eventive.org/schedule 

Among industry leaders and guests were Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent, Guardians of the Galaxy), Irina Maleeva (Honorary Chairwoman, star of Peacocks’ Paul T Goldman, Six Feet Under, The Gilmore Girls), Jean St James (NCIS, American Crime Story, Jesus Revolution), Dawn Marie (About Us), Marcy Goldman (Modern Family), Amber Martinez (Surfside Girls, upcoming Jason Bateman/Universal’s Based on a True Story), Ron Yerxa (Oscar Winning producer Little Miss Sunshine), Larry Namer (E! Entertainment founder), Arnold Schwarzman (Oscar-winning director, Genocide; Echoes That Remain), Kirpi Uimonen, Lena BasseBarbara Gasser from the Golden Globes, Peter Gross (Managing Partner, PMG Associates), director-producer Andrei Zinca (Who I Am Not, multiple award-winner documentary which premiered at SXSW 2023, features Puzzle and So, What’s Freedom?Rosa de America, a six-hour period TV mini-series shot in Peru), Marlene Forte (Netflix’s Griselda and Lincoln Lawyer, ABC’s The Rookie, and Aristotle), Tenia Watson (three-time Daytime Emmy Award-nominated and two-time NAACP Image Award-winning former executive producer of the Emmy-winning daytime talk show, The Real), Yangzom Brauen (award-winning producer, writer, director, NCIS LA, Hawaii five-0, Station 19Magnum P.I., and MacGyver as well as first season shows such as Republic of Sarah for the CW and Rebel for ABC and for Hulu), Binnur Karaevli (creator and executive producer of The Protector, the first Turkish Netflix International Originals series, and the upcoming Paramount + crime drama series The Turkish Detective), Golden Globe nominated film composer and an HMMA winner Carlo Siliotto (Nomad: The Warrior, and Eugenio Derbez starrer Instructions Not Included (No Se Aceptan Devoluciones), as well as Miracles From HeavenCuando Sea Joven), Dunya Merell Djordjevic, founder and executive director of the all-girl filmmaking non-profit, Girls IN Focus; Inbal B. Lesnner, ACE is an Emmy-nominated and Eddie-winning producer/editor who most recently cut together Sarah Gibson’s Stormy, the explosive documentary recounting the scandal that surrounded Stormy Daniels and former President Donald Trump; 

Vani Saraswathi Balgam, Founder, CEO, and Director at Dancing Atoms, animation studio showcasing Indian stories to the world; cinematographer Hana Kitasei (Strong Independent WomenSurviving the Sleepover,  and upcoming American Solitaire and Love, Danielle); award-winning cinematographer Jacek Laskus (Donald Petrie Sr,-directed Square Dance, Robert Altman’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Michael Tolkin’s Jerry was a Man), director Roko Belic (Academy Award® nomination for his landmark film, Genghis Blues; directed iTunes “all-time-bestseller,” Happy, and The Batmobile for WB), producer Alexia Melocchi (behind the acquisitions of films such as PeppermintThe Boy 2, La La Land, Anna, Now you see me 2, Shaun the sheep), producer Franco Sama (cult favorite Guns, Girls and Gambling starring Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, Tooth and Nail starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, Take the Night, the action-packed thriller, The Shift, starring Neal McDonogh and Sean Austin), producer and longtime studio executive Christine La Monte (upcoming Viva Verdi! and Ai WeiWei Turandot), producer Eleonora Granata ((2024 Independent Spirit Awards nominated Monica, starring Trace Lysette and Oscar nominated actresses Patricia Clarkson and Adriana Barazza).

Also dignitaries who attended were The Hon. Michael Postl (Consul General of Austria, Los Angeles), The Hon. Volker R. Ammann (Austrian Trade Commissioner to the United States in Los Angeles),The Hon. Lucia Sava (Consul General of Romania, Los Angeles), The Hon. Renee Pea (Consul General of Croatia, Los Angeles), The Hon. Boyko Hristov (Consul General of Bulgaria, Los Angeles), The Hon John Mirisch, Councilmember, City of Beverly Hills; Lourdes Saab, Chief of Protocol for the County of Los Angeles; and Vera Mijojlic, president and founder of SEEfest.