Sarajevo is “Dealing with the Past” through its True Stories Market
by Vassilis Economou
- The festival initiated an open call for filmmakers and producers who want to bring unknown stories related to the Yugoslav Wars to the big screen
For the third year running, the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Talks hosted one of its most interesting sections, the True Stories Market. As at its previous editions, the market, which is part of the Dealing with the Past programme, brings unknown stories directly related to the 1990s Yugoslav Wars to the public for the first time. Representatives of five organisations investigating the wars in the former Yugoslavia presented their stories, as yet undocumented on film, to a varied professional audience. Their ultimate goal was to find possible future producers, directors and scriptwriters in order to bring these stories to a wider audience.
Programme coordinator Maša Marković informed the audience and the participants that in order to facilitate this transition from documentation to film production, the festival would, in the coming months, be announcing an open call whereby filmmakers and producers will be able to apply to board any of the projects, and the Heartefact Fund will offer a €3,000 grant to support further research. The panel was moderated by Robert Tomić Zuber.
The selection of stories was quite varied, and most of them had a strong impact on the audience. Going into further detail on the stories, two of them come from the city of Prijedor in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The first, presented by Goran Zorić, of Youth Centre KVART, Creating a New Narrative and Politics of Memory, deals with the execution of 102 children during the war, a crime perpetrated based on their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Even today, the parents and relatives of these innocent victims as well as local activists are demanding that a monument be erected to commemorate their deaths. Paradoxically, local politicians – both Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs – are “collaborating” to sabotage this project, as the monument will have to include the names of all of the children, regardless of their nationalities. The aim of the project is to shift the focus away from these ethno-national conflicts and expose the corruption of local officials.
The second story from Prijedor was presented by Edin Ramulić, of the Foundation for Building the Culture of Memory. Nermin Karagić’s Story follows 17-year-old Nermin, who in the summer of 1992 succeeded in surviving two executions, and he subsequently escaped from a third attempt. He was abused and tortured, and witnessed the murder of his father, whose body he unwittingly had to carry. Having clearly been traumatised, Karagić is now living in his home town, which has a mixed population, and where victims and perpetrators live right next to each other. Karagić considers himself a member of his community, so he accepts this abnormality as part of his everyday life. His story has never been documented and was only available as a testimony in The Hague, where the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has selected it to represent the crimes that were committed in Prijedor.
Mirna Buljagić, of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH), brought along I Was Hardly a Newborn, based on the book of the same name by Amir Šesić, whose father, Ibrahim, was executed in the Srebrenica massacre. His mother was pregnant with him and reached a hospital in Tuzla. She gave birth but ran away three days later. Amir grew up in an orphanage and, through his story, hopes to inspire other children who lost their parents during the war, as well as raising awareness of and encouraging research into the mass murders.
Represented by Sabiha Husić, Medica Zenica, the oldest specialised NGO that provides comprehensive assistance, support and care to women in Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented Yes, It Happened, But I Kept on With My Chin Up, the story of an unnamed Bosniak woman. As a teenager, she, along with other women, was raped by three Serbian soldiers. Instead of keeping her story secret, she decided to reveal what happened to everyone, including her own family. Despite the contempt she received from her relatives, her choice to live as a survivor of the event and not as a victim is still inspirational.
Finally, the Tuzla-based Vive Žene Centre for Therapy and Rehabilitation, represented by Augustina Rahmanović, presented a less bleak story in the form of Peacebuilding in Communities in Eastern Bosnia. For two years (from September 2012 to 2014), an interethnic group of Bosniak and Bosnian Serb women worked together and shared their wartime experiences with the guidance of a psychotherapist. This sharing of common experiences enabled them to understand that they had endured similar traumas and served as the basis for creating new initiatives in which members of both groups jointly participated.
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