BITEF is one of the oldest, most relevant, most prestigious events and a rarity in the family of major world festivals. It was founded by a decision of the Assembly of the City of Belgrade as a regular annual event of particular importance for the City of Belgrade on 26 December 1967. It acquaints the spectator, indirect analyst and beneficiary with the world’s latest theatre achievements expressed through experimental and traditional form. For almost half a century it has been building our intellectual ties with the world and the world’s ties with us. Ever-advocating new and open cultural spaces, it has established remarkable contacts, undone fixed artistic hierarchies, encouraged the development of performing arts in Serbia and contributed to its affirmation in a broader context. It has also helped to form domestic theatre critique in the struggle against the parochial spirit and spiritual emptiness. BITEF is an epochal anti-traditional phenomenon of the supreme category in the Yugoslav and world culture.
The festival with its long-standing subtitle New Theatre Tendencies is a set of values, an artistic project which does not communicate definitive truths about the theatre and does not represent; instead, it opens and raises questions about some of the most sensitive issues of the modern public sphere, produced, presented or concealed in special worlds of differences and schisms in arts.
It overpowers modernist dogmas, media boundaries and disciplines and aspires to study, analyse, offer new readings and advances in artistic performance, diverse forms of representational structures and story-telling mechanisms – from prose narratives, i.e. dramatic texts in the literal sense where the literary text precedes the theatrical event to the deconstruction of its autonomy and its interdisciplinary application in other communicational systems (dance, music, pictorial, video, poetic, film, techno, physical, cyber etc. “telling of a story”). Addressing not only the production of a piece or interpretation of the performing act but also their social, political and cultural contexts and effects, BITEF cultivates the power of questioning, criticism, negation and split and does it dynamically, productively and explicitly. Political and cultural barriers notwithstanding, BITEF draws maps, responds critically to new social challenges and problems, opens social and political issues, actively re-examines its own and general artistic and theatre strategies and the ways in which they produce new theatre realities.