- Safa Al-Saleh
The International Criminal Court’s approval of the life sentence of Serbian General Ratko Mladic for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, sheds light on the massacre of about eight thousand Bosnian Muslims.
The United Nations has described what happened in the town of Srebrenica as the worst war crime to occur in Europe since World War II.
The United Nations forces had declared the besieged enclave in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, a “safe area” under the auspices of the United Nations, but they were unable to disarm both the Serb and Bosnian forces fighting in the area.
The lightly armed Dutch force in the area was unable to prevent the subsequent massacre of Bosnian Serb army units under the command of General Mladic and Serb paramilitary units known as “Scorpions” from July 11 to 13, 1995.
This horrific event received attention in the world cinema, which tried to present it in a number of its films and to research its circumstances and complexities and the events that paved the way for it or its consequences that affected subsequent generations.
We highlight here a number of the most prominent directorial attempts to present this event cinematically in a dramatic context in the narrative cinema, or in a documentary context within the documentaries that dealt with it.
“Where are you going oh?يthis؟“
The film “Where Are You Going Back” by the Bosnian director Yasmila Zpanic is at the forefront of the films that succeeded in presenting the Srebrenica massacre in cinema, and recalling its tragedy nearly a quarter of a century later. The film received critical acclaim and was shortlisted for Best Foreign Film at the US Academy Awards and the British BAFTA Awards earlier this year.
He also picked up many awards in international forums and festivals; Among them is the Best International Film award at the Independent Spirit Awards and Best Film at the recent El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt, and at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
This film was unique among the dramatic films that dealt with the war that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the war that erupted in the Balkans following the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, by presenting a kind of “decodrama” that re-embodied what happened in Srebrenica from the point of view of the Bosnian victims. Stories and tales from this war and did not dedicate an entire film to address this horrific massacre, including previous films by director Zpanic herself, most of which focused on the effects of the Bosnian war on the generations who lived there after.
We mention here: The movie “Grabavica: The Land of My Dreams” in 2006, which shed light on the systematic rape of Bosnian women at the hands of Serb soldiers, through the story of a mother who lives alone with her daughter, who was the product of her rape by a Serbian soldier. This film won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival, and “On the Road”, which depicts the effects of the war on the lives of a Bosnian Muslim man and woman who lost her father in the war and the man lost his brother, and how this war casts a shadow over their entire future lives.
In her dramatic approach to the incident of the Srebrenica massacre, Zpanic married real and imagined facts required by the dramatic construction, especially what relates to the life of her heroine, Aida, who strives to preserve her family amid the recurring facts of war, fighting and death. The director describes her heroine as being inspired by a mixture of multiple characters, although she inspired the entirety of her film from a documentary non-fiction book entitled: “The United Nations Flag: The International Community and the Genocide in Srebrenica” by her compatriot Hasan Nuhanovic, who worked as a translator and narrated what he lived in the camp. Dutch UN forces in Srebrenica and the experience of his family’s exclusion from it.
Zpanic chose to convey the story of Hassan to a well-experienced area in her research and work, which is women in war, with all the emotional charge and dramatic intensity it provides. This is how her main character was Aida instead of Hassan, who made her a representative model for many women who lost their children and families in The Bosnian War and the Srebrenica massacre in particular.
Aida in the film (brilliantly played by the Serbian actress Jasana Gorzic) is an English language teacher who turns to work as a translator with the United Nations peacekeeping forces during the war in Bosnia. By virtue of her work as a translator, she is briefed on the developments of the war and the entry of the Serbian army into the region; This is followed by an influx of people to the Dutch peacekeeping force camp in Srebrenica, which is located in an old battery factory in the area.
With the acceleration of events and the entry of the Serbian forces, Aida seeks to save her small family consisting of her husband and two sons from among the crowds of the displaced, and succeeds in getting them into the camp, but later fails to keep them there with the entry of the Serbian forces, who demand the removal of all the men from the camp on the pretext that there are armed fighters among them.
Zpanic succeeds in presenting a distinctive marriage between the public and the private. The general represents the epic picture of the fate of the crowds in the midst of that war and the massacre of the fighting, while the special represents the story of Aida and her family as a holographic and emotionally intense model of the tragedy of the Bosnian families in Srebrenica.
Aida, though enjoying the privilege of working with the United Nations, ultimately fails, like other Bosnian women, to protect her husband and two sons who are being transported by Serbian forces along with all the other men and young men.
The director devotes clips to General Mladic, his role in commanding these forces, and his keenness to film propaganda scenes in which he appears, for example. He flirts with a Bosnian girl or sends reassuring messages to Bosnian civilians at a time when his forces continue their combat activities.
Although the events of the film revolve around a horrific massacre, we did not see any drop of blood or extreme violence in it. In presenting the massacre, the director resorts to allegorical solutions and bets on creating an interesting rhythm that attracts the viewer to her film and engages him in feelings of fear and expectation and thus sympathy with the course of Its events are presented from the perspective of the victims.
In the climax scene, which is the scene of the massacre of men and young men after they were transported, it suffices to show them being transported at the threat of turtles to a building that resembles an empty hall, then cut to the windows from which the bullets emanate; But she moves to photograph the empty trucks that transported them, then cuts to a street that passes through an area completely covered with snow, in which we see Aidas car heading to her town years after the accident, where she visits her home, which is now inhabited by a Serbian family, and then we see her circling with dozens of women to search among the exhumed remains of the victims. from a mass grave.
Zapanic ends her film with the distraught Aida returning to her old job educating children in the town. She bids farewell to the movie audience with a light smile on her tired face, while the children she trained, including the son of the family that lives in her home, perform an expressive dance in front of their families in the school theater.
The 2002 television movie “The Pocket” by Dutch director Willem van de Sande Bakuzin (Bakuzen), which was shown in two versions, the first short as a film and the second as an extended series in a three-episode series, deals with the fall of Srebrenica at the hands of Serb fighters and the failure of the Dutch peacekeeping force to protect civilians there, but no He tells the event directly, but through its effects and consequences on the hero of his film.
Like the movie “Where Are You Going, Aida” he chooses a Bosnian translator named Ebro who was working with the Dutch peacekeeping forces, but he is married to a female soldier in these forces and they are expecting their first child. Later, while working as a translator at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, he meets a Serbian officer who he believes was responsible for the murder of his family at the fall of Srebrenica. When the court releases the Serbian officer for lack of evidence, Ebro resorts to taking justice into his own hands and kidnapping the officer to force him to confess what he sees as his responsibility for the murder of his family.
Other feature films have dealt with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina or its aftermath, but they were not devoted to the massacre itself, as is the case with the movie “Where Do You Go Back”, but rather in the context of its dealing with the bloody events of the Bosnian war.
Among other films that dealt with this war, we briefly mention, for example, but not limited to, the 2001 film “No Man’s Land” by Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, which won the Best Foreign Film award at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, as well as the Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of two wounded soldiers, a Bosnian and a Serb, who are stuck together in no man’s land and struggle to survive between the two warring sides.
And the movie “The Land of Blood and Honey”, which represents the first directorial attempt by actress Angelina Jolie, and tells a love story between a Bosnian Muslim artist and a security man and the son of a Serbian general ravaged by war with its atrocities. The Bosnian girl is captured in a Serbian camp, and her lover tries to help her escape in the camp, for which he is one of the responsible; However, she prefers to remain under his protection, but after the development of the course of the war and the move to Sarajevo, she tries to escape and return to the side of her people. However, she returns to him again, but with another aim this time, which is to exploit her relationship with him to spy on the Serbian forces for the Bosnian resistance. After discovering this fact following the bombing of a church in which he was hiding, he kills her and surrenders to the peacekeeping forces.
However, this does not apply to the documentaries, many of which dealt with this massacre with a lot of research, investigation, excavation and disclosure of documents, some of which were presented in the context of the trial of Mladic, who was convicted by the International Criminal Court of genocide for his role in this massacre.
The most prominent of these films is the British director Leslie Woodhead’s film “A Cry from the Grave”, which was shown on BBC 2 in 1999, documenting what happened in the Srebrenica massacre through the testimonies of survivors and relatives of the victims.
In the same direction, the film “The Fog of Srebrenica” by the Bosnian-British director Samir Mahanovic (he fled the war in 1994 and sought refuge in Britain to live in the city of Edinburgh), relied on interviews with a number of men and women survivors of the massacre, wondering about the impact of those difficult days on Their subsequent lives and the meaning of concepts such as existence, war, and forgiveness to them.
In his 1996 film Safe Haven: The United Nations and the Betrayal of Srebrenica, director Ilan Ziv, with the help of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Roy Guttman and Cable Bros., investigates the role of United Nations forces in the region and whether their commanders were aware of the massacre.
The film delves into a large amount of intelligence information, documents and secret reports of the United Nations regarding serious accusations against the leaders of the UN forces, accusing them of miscalculating the size of the aggressive intentions of the Serb leaders, ignoring intelligence information and not asking to use the capabilities of the air force to prevent what happened.
In their 2010 documentary film “Betrayal of a Town”, Norwegian journalists and directors Ola Fliom and David Aydic focused on the circumstances that led to the Srebrenica massacre, which was represented by General Mladic’s attempt to control the town and the evacuation of about 15,000 people from the town in a situation that Vlium describes as total chaos.
The film was subjected to numerous criticisms and complaints to the Norwegian Press Professional Ethics Committee, which saw in the film a violation of some of its rules by not referring to the conclusions of the International Criminal Court in this regard, as the director denies in one of his statements that what happened there was “part of a complete chaos and not a process.” organized ethnic cleansing.
Portuguese director Joaquim Sabinho, in his film “Bosnian Diaries”, did not deal directly with the Srebrenica massacre, but relied on his personal experience on two trips he made to Bosnia, the first in 1996 and the second in 1998, moving between the two sides: Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, documenting memories of war, destruction and the suffering of the displaced. Who do not know how to return to their homes after being displaced from them.
So did the two sister directors, Georgia and Sophia Scott, in their film “In the Shadows of War” 2014, when they dealt with the effects of the war on the new generation by documenting the stories of four teenage war orphans in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and how that devastating war still casts a shadow over their lives after nearly 20 years. on its end.