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Chris Mathieu: Top 10 documentries about the Bosnian war and the Siege of Sarajevo

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top 10 documentries about the Bosnian war and the Siege of Sarajevo


(Top: Miss Sarajevo; bottom: Bosko and Amira Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo)

There are many compelling documentaries about the wars in Yugoslavia, at least 400 by my estimate, I have about 250 of those myself (many for sale if you are interested). Some are unforgettable like Yugoslavia Death of a Nation, widely considered one of the five best documentaries ever made. Pairing this list down to just ten was difficult, I tried to come up with a cross section that would give a full representation of the war. The only one I would have included and didn't is Yugoslavia the Avoidable War. It is a well made documentary that brings up some valid points, but in the end lies thru omission of facts to prove their point or only presents one percent of a story and leaves out the most important details. For those with an advance understanding of the war in Bosnia it can fill in a few cracks like spackle, it is not howere the brick and mortar of what happened in Yugoslavia and Bosnia.
These documentaries paint an accurate compelling story of what really happened in the war in Bosnia and the compelling personal stories of those who lived and died during this time.
1) Death of Yugoslavia (it is also called Yugoslavia Death of a Nation, or Smrt Jugoslavija) One of the best documentary films ever made and it has the awards to prove it.Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, a five-part epic documentary television series, covering the modern demise and ethnic hostilities of Yugoslavia and its component cultures. The series consists of 5 episodes on 3 VHS tapes - Volume 1: The Cracks Appear (Episode 1) and Descent Into War (Episode 2). Volume 2: The Collapse of Unity (Episode 3) and The Gates of Hell (Episode 4). Volume 3: No Escape (Episode 5)

2) Srebrenica a cry from the grave
  A Cry from the Grave tells the story of the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, in which the Bosnian Serb army killed an estimated 7,000 Bosnian Muslims.
It follows hour by hour the story of the killings. Through the testimony of survivors and relatives of those who died it explores the pain felt when no one is brought to justice.There are interviews with investigators from the UN-sponsored court at The Hague and from the UN special prosecutor.
But the underlying message of the film is bleak indeed - no matter what is done, it will never be enough. A Cry from the Grave has won numerous prizes. It has been shown at the UN, and it was used during a war crimes trial at The Hague.


3) Bosna! A documentary from the famed French film maker Bernard Henri Levy, shows the Siege of Sarajevo and the war in Bosnia in a way rarely seen by the outside world.

4) Romeo and Juliet in SarajevoIn the spring of 1993 two young people were killed by sniper fire as they attempted to flee Sarajevo. The bodies of the Muslim woman, Admira Ismic, and her Serbian lover, Bosko Brckic, lay in each others’ arms on a Sarajevan bridge for several days, as the various factions in the brutal war assigned blame, and a picture of the dead couple dominated the international media.
Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo traces the lives of this young couple from their high school graduation in 1986, the year Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics, through Bosko’s fateful decision to stay in the city of his birth when so many of his fellow Serbs left for safety, or to take part in the siege. Although the filmmakers build the documentary around the poignancy of the love story, the strength of the piece lies in the interviews and images that give a context to multiethnic disintegration and a city under attack.


 
 
The interviews include Admira’s Muslim father talking about singing in a Croatian church, Bosko’s grandmother remembering the horrors of World War II, Bosko’s mother describing the shelling of their kitchen while they were watching tennis in the living room, a Serbian priest defending the necessity of defeating the Muslims for the future of Serbia, and a convicted Muslim drug dealer, now Bosnian military leader, explaining his allegiance, not just to Muslims, but to all people of Sarajevo. Inside the city, the gangster makes rock videos and negotiates escape attempts, while outside the city the priest buries the dead, but won’t pray for Admira, a Muslim, at her internment with Bosko.
The images are equally striking. Colorful family snapshots of the prewar couple at the beach soon segue into grainy video footage of mortar massacres and children dashing across streets to foil snipers who get paid 500 DM for each dead Sarajevan.
Admira Ismic and Bosko Brckic shot by snipers. From 'Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo'  - National Film Board of Canada
Admira Ismic and Bosko Brckic shot by snipers.
From Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo.
We see Bosko’s two bombed out apartments, an old women rooting up weeds for something to eat, and Admira’s nephews playing soccer in the rubble of a courtyard, afraid to leave since they saw their mother die from a single mortar as she put them to bed. The film ends with Croatian and Serbian soldiers describing the dying moments of the couple and the attempts to get their bodies. It is unclear from this documentary how much Admira and Bosko knew of the rape campaign, the concentration camps, and the divisions within the international community regarding what to do about the chaos in the former Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, by personalizing the conflict, the filmmakers have made clear the universal experiences of some of its victims, making its horror more comprehensible and the need for an understanding of the Balkans in the 1990s more urgent.

5) Exile in Sarajevo A tale of Multiculturalism under siege; at last the great success story of Sarajevo has been told. Inspiring audiences during its cinema release and at international festivals - a special edition of EXILE IN SARAJEVO was broadcast to many millions on CNN worldwide.

This is Sarajevo as we've never seen it - sophisticated, dynamic, a city of 40 nations whose multicultural civilisation triumphed despite 2 million shells landing on the city. Brushing aside all the cliches on Bosnia, we meet real people, no different to ourselves, except for their heroism. People like 8 year-old Amira, who kept a diary of her internment in a death camp; and Nirvana, tragically cut down by a shell; and her heroic mother, Zemka. A crazy group of models, "The Front", take us on a fashion parade on the frontline.

As we go on to witness the Market Massacre, the NATO air raid and the transformation from siege to liberation of the city, we too are transformed as people. Innovative in style, anguished, even funny, EXILE IN SARAJEVO is an extraordinary elegy for a city whose gift to us all is their message of tolerance and hope and human values.

6) Do you remember Sarajevo? This is the first film about Sarajevo under siege that successfully documented our state of consciousness through time. The shock at the beginning of the siege, learning how to survive, the resistance, the ascent and decent of the spirit throughout the four long years of suffering...'
'It's a film of passionate filmmakers. Authors are Muslim and they clearly express so in this film. The main quality of this film is that every citizen of Sarajevo can identify him/herself with the film – those who are not young, those who are not filmmakers and those who are not Muslim. That's why this film is an art form...'
'... Authors of the film have invited our common memory that has essentially determined our lives...'
'...Brothers Kresevljakovic and Alikadic are authors who belong to the avangard of Bosnian film. We can recognize the artistic avangard of Russia in this film and Dziga Vertov's exclamation 'I am a man-camera'. Buñuel’s and Dali's Andalusian dog and surrealism, Vigo 's 'Apropos de Nice', the American avangard of the fifties and Monty Payton are all historic methods used in 'Do You Remember Sarajevo'.
Kresevljakovics and Alikadic are predecessors in camera treatment to Von Trier and 'NYPD'. Their formal and esthetic innovation consists in their ability to unify their own documentary material, archive, video-letters (specific during the siege of Sarajevo) and feature material. In this way they produced a document of inestimable value and an excellent artistic film. This film is the brilliant mind of Sarajevans under siege.'


7) Mostar unfinished business Unfinished Business, a BBC documentary about East Mostar in the fall of 1993, was shown in an ICTY courtroom for the second time today. The first time was in November 2001, at the trial of Mladen Naletilic Tuta and Vinko Martinovic Stela. It was shown again today in the prosecution case against the six former Bosnian Croat leaders charged with the crimes committed in the Croat-Muslim conflict in Central Bosnia and Western Herzegovina, including the town of Mostar. The author of the film, Jeremy Bowen, was in the witness stand both times.

In the film, Bowen describes how about 60,000 inhabitants in East Mostar – most of them Muslims – face the choice: to fight or to die. The situation in East Mostar is described as worse than that in Gorazde, Sarajevo and Vukovar. Esad Humo, the BH Army commander in Mostar, was asked what he was fighting for. His answer to Bowen was, “for survival”.

The film shows the refugees expelled by the HVO from their homes in West Mostar crossing the Neretva river at night, under fire from infantry weapons. Bowen calls that “a war crime with a military objective” in the film. He interviews a rape victim, doctors in the Mostar war hospital, the mother of a wounded daughter who did not live to be evacuated in the first batch of the wounded, a daughter who has lost her father and a number of other civilians.

The film also talks about the practice of using Muslim prisoners as human shields on the front lines. On the other hand, it also shows the “newly-acquired” cruelty of BH Army soldiers, taking the Croat prisoners to do forced labor. A soldier explains that it was “the law of the jungle” in Mostar at the time.


8) Miss Sarajevo Bill Carter, maker of the film, equipped with a simple hand-held camera manages to capture and tell the story of young people stuck in Sarajevo during the siege from 1992 to 1996, the longest in modern history.
It is amazing to see how -- even with no food, water, or hope -- people mange to survive, socialize, and even shoot movies and make music.
The first Sarajevo International Film Festival was held during the siege, where people had to run inside the theater to avoid sniper bullets. It has since then grown to be one of the most important in Europe.


9) Srebrenica Triumph of Evil documentary film produced by SENSE News Agency about SREBRENICA Trial, is the first, and so far the only, video-document about one complete trial before an international criminal tribunal after the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials.

The documentary "Triumph of Evil" shows all stages of the trial: from the Prosecutor`s Opening Statement to the Trial Chamber Judgment.

The ICTY Judgment in Srebrenica Trial was rendered on 2nd August 2001. The accused – Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic - was the first person convicted of genocide by the ICTY and sentenced to 46 years imprisonment. He was found guilty of participating in deportation around 30.000 women and children and mass execution of at least 7 000 Muslim men by the Bosnian Serb Army, after the fall of Srebrenica enclave in July 1995.

The documentary includes the most dramatic testimonies by witnesses who survived execution and other victims of crimes committed in Srebrenica, as well as testimonies of the accused and defense witnesses. Important part of the documentary is dedicated to presentation of forensic evidence: exhumations of primary and secondary mass graves, bodies and personal belongings found in the mass graves and other exhibits presented by both sides during the trial, with testimonies of the forensic experts.


10) Otpor Bosnia Bosnian resistance heard to the sky A great documentary produced by the Bosnian army after the war showing from the Bosnian perspective their resistance to the Serbian aggression on Bosnia. It is a great insiders look at the war and the Bosnian army.

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16/01/2015 21:25