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“Balkan Express”: ORF, 3sat and ERSTE Foundation embark on an expedition through the Balkans with TV series

12. January 2012

 After years of violent conflict, the Balkans today is a region of hope. What does this region mean to us, to our neighbours and the rest of Europe? In trying to answer this question, ORF and ORF/3sat embark on an expedition through the Balkans presenting the TV series “Balkan Express”. The documentary features ten episodes – 3sat broadcasts the first five (i.e. about Kosovo and Albania) starting 27 April on Sundays at 09.00 p.m., the other five (i.e. Serbia and Turkey) in autumn 2008. On ORF 2, the first season of the series is expected to start 16 July, with the second season to follow in autumn. The TV series is part of a comprehensive focus on the Balkans, which starts today (3 April) with a two-day symposium and, on 7 April, with a two-day music festival, organised by ERSTE Foundation, at the ORFRadioKulturhaus. In a press conference, the TV series “Balkan Express” was presented today, Thursday, 3 April, by the Chairman of the Board of ERSTE Foundation, Andreas Treichl, Director General of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), Dr. Alexander Wrabetz, Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation, Boris Marte, head of the culture department of ORF, Martin Traxl, and Alida Vracic, Director of “Populari”, a research initiative based in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Chairman of the Board of ERSTE Foundation, Andreas Treichl: “A portrait of the Balkans beyond the usual stereotypes”

“We have initiated and supported ‘Balkan Express’, because we believe it is important that in Austria and in the other countries in which the series is broadcast the term ‘Balkans‘ should not only trigger images of war and conflicts in our minds. If we are able to contribute, other than in politics, to seeing neighbours as friends, we have accomplished at lot,” says the Chairman of the Board of ERSTE Foundation, Andreas Treichl, explaining ERSTE Foundation’s commitment to the documentary. “In the films, young people in particular are given the opportunity to comment on their situations who have contributed to the pacification of the region, to the region’s path toward the EU and to building democracy,” explains Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation, Boris Marte. “This is why we have been supporting the studies of the ‘European Stability Initiative’ for a long time, which have been included in the scripts and thanks to which this Balkan portrait is based on facts rather than the usual stereotypes.”

ORF Director General Dr. Alexander Wrabetz: “The future belongs to the Balkans!”

Director General of ORF, Dr. Alexander Wrabetz: “For many years, the Balkans has been viewed by the world community exclusively as an area of crisis. However, the future belongs to the Balkans, whose history has always been closely linked with that of Austria. ORF and 3sat accompany the region on its way into the future. With the new TV series ‘Balkan Express‘, we raise awareness among the Austrian TV audience of the beauty of the region, the opportunities of multi-ethnic coexistence and the possibilities of further economic development. I would like to thank everybody who has been involved in this impressive series for these sensitive portraits of our neighbours.” Head of the culture department of ORF, Martin Traxl: “‘Balkan Express’ is a filmic land survey on a grand scale” “This is the first large TV production on the Balkans, a kind of filmic land survey on a grand scale. The TV series is not about war but about the presence and the future, thus offering an unprejudiced and positive perspective on the region,” says the head of the ORF culture department, Martin Traxl. “Producing this TV series required a lot of effort for which we needed strong partners. We found them in ERSTE Foundation, ESI and pre tv.”

pre tv: 180 days on the Balkans

With a run of ten episodes (of 45 minutes each on 3sat and 52 minutes each on ORF 2), “Balkan Express” takes the viewers to Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia (first season), and to Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey (second season). “Balkan Express” is a co-production of pre tv, ORF/3sat and ORF. Initiated by ERSTE Foundation, the series was produced in cooperation with the European Stability Initiative (ESI) and was additionally funded by the Austrian Television Fund and CineStyria. The concept of “Balkan Express” was developed by Martin Traxl, head of the ORF culture department who also served as supervising producer, and is based on the idea by Gerald Knaus (ESI) and Knut Neumayer (ERSTE Foundation), written by Wolfgang Stickler. Between June 2007 and June 2008, the crew filmed in the Balkan region for a total of 180 days. The films about Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania have already been completed by pre tv, directed by Managing Director Nikolaus Wisiak.

Symposium “Return to Europe. Talking Balkans” and music festival “Listening Balkans” at ORF RadioKulturhaus

On 3 and 4 April 2008, the symposium “Return to Europe. Talking Balkans”, presented by ERSTE Foundation, will be held at ORF RadioKulturhaus. It welcomes international representatives of politics, culture, business and science and is closely linked with the TV series. Questions posed during the symposium, for example, address the Austrian perspective on the Balkans (friendly or sceptical?) or the “Balkan myth” as such. The interesting guests of the four discussion groups, mostly held in English, for example include Federal Chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer, Serbia’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Milica Delevic, the Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic, the director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, Ivan Vejvoda, the Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, the editor-in-chief of Austrian daily “Der Standard”, Alexandra Föderl- Schmid, the Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Erhard Busek, and the Director of the European Fund for the Balkans, Hedvig Morvai-Horvat. In addition to exclusive clips from the TV series, the programme features examples of video art from the region. On 7 and 8 April 2008, ERSTE Foundation and ORF RadioKulturhaus take you on the musical journey “Listening Balkans”.