John Cleese says comedians needed more than ever

Sarajevo (AFP) –


Monty Python star John Cleese said Wednesday that the need for comedy was greater than ever, as he accepted the "Honorary Heart of Sarajevo" award at the Bosnian capital's film festival.

The 77-year-old British actor was presented with the award for his "extraordinary contribution" to the art of film, which he described as "very generous".

"I'm almost embarrassed to be put in the same category as some of the people who won this award, like Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese and (British director) Stephen Frears," he said.

"But I accept it not as a film person but more as a comedian, because I think at this time in world history we have never needed comedians more."

Cleese created and starred in the hit television series "Fawlty Towers" and his most prominent work in the movies includes the four Monty Python films and A Fish Called Wanda.

The latter film was projected at an open-air screening to the 3,000 festival-goers in Sarajevo after Cleese accepted his award.

Created as an "act of resistance" during the city's 1992-5 siege, the Sarajevo Film Festival is now in its 23rd edition.

Cleese praised festival director Mirsad Purivatra for setting up the event in a small cinema in that "terrible time" during Bosnia's civil war.

"What a wonderful statement of what one can do when you can do nothing, you must be very proud," he said.

The festival regularly attracts big names, with past guests including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

On Sunday, triple Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone was also awarded a "Heart of Sarajevo".