Windows to the Past: Balkan War Reflections

To evoke in images a five-year-long conflict that at various points involved altogether six parties and resulted in the breakup of the Former Yugoslavia is a difficult task and carries the risk of being unfair in covering all aspects of this complex and devastating war. Therefore, this retrospective chooses to look beyond the political and to scrutinize individuals who, regardless of their position in the conflict, were all deeply scarred and find it difficult to recall experiences that have been shaped by the absurd realities of war.

Mandy Jacobson’s and Karmen Jelinčić’s documentary Calling the Ghosts. A Story about Rape, War and Women portrays Muslim and Croat women who survived the horrors of the Omarska concentration camp and who lobby tirelessly to have rape included in the international lexicon of war crimes by the UN Tribunal in The Hague. Nenad Puhovski’s Lora – Testimonies revisits the prison located in the Lora military harbor area in Split where over 1000 prisoners from Dalmatia, Yugoslavia and Bosnia Herzegovina were held from 1992 until 1996. The film contrasts the memories of torture and inhuman conditions with the stance of the irresponsible officials who claim to be unable to remember any of it. Heddy Honigmann’s Good Husband Dear Son takes us to Ahatovici, a picturesque village in the green hills outside Sarajevo, where almost all the men were executed and the buildings burnt to the ground. A photo, a watch, a handkerchief – the only material traces that remained – are supplemented by the wealth of memories shared by wives, mothers and daughters. Namik Kabil takes an inquisitive approach in Interrogation to find out how civilians coped with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and finds that denial overshadows memories. Finally, in Three Goran Dević takes a ride with three men actively involved in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia who – though they fought on different sides - share similar doubts and disappointment.

Girls and boys, men and women, soldiers and civilians remember this long and bloody conflict that left behind regrets and agony for so many. But only through their stories can we grasp the single common view they all share: war is an absurd machinery and the void that it leaves behind can only be filled by revisiting memories and confronting history. This retrospective evokes past perspectives that feed on memory in the hope of a better future.

Anikó Kövecsi
The program was made in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations – Office of the Western Balkans.

Calling the Ghosts. A Story about Rape, War and Women
Mandy Jacobson & Karmen Jelinčić / USA / 1996 / 63 min / Bosnian & Croatian
Two women from Bosnia-Herzegovina are caught in a war where rape was as much a weapon as bullets. Having survived the notorious Omarska concentration camp, they lobby to have rape included in the international lexicon of war crimes.
The first-person account of two women caught in a war where rape was as much an everyday weapon as bullets or bombs. Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivać, childhood friends and lawyers, enjoyed the lives of "ordinary modern women" in Bosnia-Herzegovina until one day former neighbors became tormentors. Taken to the notorious Serb concentration camp of Omarska, the two women, like other Muslim and Croat women interned there, were systematically tortured and humiliated by their Serb captors. Once released, the pair turned a personal struggle for survival into a larger fight for justice, assisting other similarly brutalized women and successfully lobbying to have rape included in the international lexicon of war crimes by the UN Tribunal at the Hague. Chronicling the two women's experience and their remarkable transformation, Calling the Ghosts is an indispensable resource for deepening understanding of human rights abuses and combating violence against women in the global arena.

producer: Mandy Jacobson
editor: Suzanne Rostock
camera: Mario Delić
sound: Kristen Thomas, Mario Vargović
music: Tony Adzinikolov

Women Make Movies
462 Broadway, Suite 500WS
New York, NY 10013
tel.: + 1 212-925-0606

selected filmography
Mandy Jacobson: Wide Angle - Road to Riches (2003) / Locked Up (2001) / Calling the Ghosts (1996)
Good Husband Dear Son
Heddy Honigmann / The Netherlands / 2001 / 50 min / Bosnian
The widows of Ahatovici remember their husbands and sons who were killed in the Yugoslav civil war in 1992. The beauty of memory and love through a dense layer of grief.
Life proceeds at a gentle pace in Ahatovici, a picturesque village in the green hills outside Sarajevo. But Ahatovici was far from quiet in 1992 when, during the war in Yugoslavia, the village fell into Serbian hands. Almost all the men were taken prisoner and brutally murdered and the village was burnt to the ground. Only the women and children were spared. The film tells the story behind this forgotten genocide. The murdered men are commemorated in the stories of their wives, mothers and daughters, and through the few remaining photographs and personal belongings. A memory is attached to each object, but that someone was a good husband does not appear from a photograph, but from the way his wife, talking about him, caresses the picture and presses it against her chest. Through the enveloping grief, the film looks for the beauty of remembering and of love.

producer: John Appel
editor: Patrick Minks
camera: John Appel
sound: Piotr van Dijk
music: Hesperion XXI

production info:
Appel & Honigmann / VPRO Television
Interkerkelijke Omroep Nederland (IKON)
Bergweg 16
1217 SE Hilversum
tel.: + 35 672 7272

selected filmography
Oblivion (2008) / Emoticons (2007) / Forever (2006) / Framed Marriage (2005) / Give Me Your Hand (2004) / Food for Love (2004) / Crazy (2000) / Hanna lacht (1999) / De juiste maat (1998) / 2 Minutes Silence, Please (1998) / The Underground Orchestra (1997) / O Amor Natural (1996) / Goodbye (1995) / Metal and Melancholy (1994) / Ghatak (1990) / Your Opinion, Please (1989) / Mindshadows (1988) / The Front Door (1985)
Namik Kabil / Bosnia and Herzegovina / 2007 / 42 min / Bosnian
An investigation of the trauma and denial, which have become a dominant – but silent – dimension of everyday life in the post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Director Namik Kabil interviews a group of eyewitnesses of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a rusty, dingy, deserted shed. They sit at a table, plastic cup of coffee and ashtray within reach, harshly lit by fluorescent light - as if it were an interrogation. Kabil films them with a handheld camera, against a background of grimy tiles, asking elementary questions about the war. "When did the war start for you?" "What did you eat?" "Did you see dead people?" "Did you learn anything from the war?" And especially, "do we need to talk about the war?" With one exception, they all think they do, but they say many people prefer to keep silent about it. "It's like when you have an elephant in the middle of the room," a woman says, "and everyone pretends it's not there." They talk about their experiences in Sarajevo, in the trenches or abroad, about their dulled feelings, about the solidarity during the war. But despite Kabil's repeated attempts to find out who shot at them, the interviewees still lack the courage to discuss it. "We didn't shoot at ourselves" is one woman's way of evading the question. But to the question as to who won the war, the answer is unanimous: "No one."

producer: Amra Bakšić Čamo
editor: Timur Makarević
camera: Almir Djikoli, Boris Jugo
sound: Igor Čamo
music: Dino Šaran

production info:
Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art - SCCA
Obala Kulina bana 22
71000 Sarajevo
Bosnia & Herzegovina
tel.: + 387 33 665 304

selected filmography
Magnet (2011) / Vjernici (2009) / Nightguards (2008) / Crna hronika (2004)
Lora - Testimonies
Nenad Puhovski / Croatia / 2004 / 65 min / Croatian
Does anyone remember what happened in the Lora concentration camp, in Croatia, 1992-1996? If they do, do they want to?
A film about the prison located in the Lora military port area of Split, where over 1000 prisoners from Split, Dalmatia, Yugoslavia and Bosnia Herzegovina were held from 1992 until 1996. The testimonies recorded in this film confirm the system of brutal torture and also the death or disappearance of some 70 prisoners. Former Croatian military police officers claim they can no longer remember the events in question, despite the detailed accounts previously given to pre-trial investigators. Likewise, former inmates of the prison have declined to answer court summons or have changed their testimony on the stand.

producer: Veran Matič, Nenad Puhovski
editor: Žarko Korač
camera: Silvestar Kolbas
sound: Mladen Škalec, Tomislav Hleb
music: Pere Ištvančić

production info:
Factum Documentary Film Project
Nova Ves 18
10 000 Zagreb
tel.: +385 1 4854 821

selected filmography
Together (2009) / Pavilion 22 (2002) / U pozadini (1984) / Pet filmova o Nives K.K. (1980) / Groznica (1979) / Bog igre (1975) / Tojota Korola 1000 (1974)
Goran Dević / Croatia / 2007 / 30 min / Bosnian & Croatian & Serbian
Three former soldiers from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia remember the war. Even though they fought on different sides, they all agree on its tragic absurdity.
“Do we still need to keep talking about the war?" is the motto of this documentary by Goran Dević, who has decided to conduct confessional interviews with three men actively involved in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Serb Novica Kostić tried his best to avoid conscription but failed. During the war he was wounded and he now recalls how easily a person can be turned into a "killing machine." Rough-edged and slightly cynical Croat Narcis Misanović joined up voluntarily and was convicted after the war of the murder of 16 Serb civilians. Ivica Petrić saw his father and brother killed in front of his eyes. At the age of 11 he was already working in a military canteen and a few years later was fighting in the ranks of the Bosnian army. These interviews, recorded during car journeys, bring the fratricidal conflict home to the viewer. Even though the three fought on different sides, they all agree that the war was inhumane and absurd, and that today everybody behaves as if nothing happened.

producer: Nenad Puhovski
editor: Vanja Siruček
camera: Jure Černec, Tamara Cesarec
sound: Hrvoje Grill, Zlatan Čehić

Production info:
Factum Documentary Film Project
Nova Ves 18/3
10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel.: + 385 1 48 54 821

selected filmography
Don Juan: Excuse me, Miss! (2011) / Poplava (2010) / The Blacks (2009) / Ma sve ce biti u redu (2008) / Masturbation Among Croats (2003) / Vikend u Sisku (2001)