For Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic and her crew, Quo Vadis, Aida ?, their Oscar-nominated film on the Srebrenica genocide, not just a movie.
25 years since the atrocities took place under UN oversight, the Bosnians are telling their story on the big screen for the first time.
Zbanic told Al Jazeera: “It was very emotional for the crew. “Not just Bosnians but for our international crew – this is more than a professional mission. We all feel this is more than just a movie.
“Healing begins when your injury is recognized and respected by others.”
Quo Vadis, Aida? has won numerous awards, and some critics claim that Bosnia and Herzegovina are strong candidates for the second Academy Award in the international feature film category.
In 2001, Danis Tanovic’s Film War in Bosnia won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.
Zbanic’s story takes place in July 1995, when the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, a safe zone declared by the United Nations, fell into the hands of Serbs, led by Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic.
Today, he is a war criminal sentenced to imprisonment in The Hague, convicted of genocide.
Within days, Serb forces systematically killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica while the United Nations stood out.
The film is based on Under the UN Flag, a book by Hasan Nuhanovic, a Bosnian survivor from Srebrenica who worked as an interpreter for the UN at the time.
Nuhanovic witnessed his family being murdered.
The survivors’ testimony, many of whom participated in the film, brought the story to life.
Serbian actress Jasna Djuricic plays the main character Aida, a Bosnian teacher who works as an English translator for the UN. Her position provides protection for her, but not for her husband and two young sons.
The title translated to Where are you going Aida?.
Aida is constantly moving throughout the movie. As death drew closer for Bosniak men and boys at the United Nations base in Potocari, her pace was faster as she tried to save her family from the execution in despair.
The UN’s disregard for civilians, whom they are supposed to protect, is a central topic.
After Mladic and his forces captured Srebrenica, and when thousands of Bosnians had gathered outside the UN base for protection, Thomas Karremans, commander of the UN’s Dutchbat (Dutch battalion), in one incident. telegram with the UN, asked why the airstrikes were not carried out. as an excuse, as he promised the mayor of Srebrenica.
Instead of getting help, he was told that the Secretary-General and the entire UN command were on vacation.
“The UN is influenced by the political interests of Western countries, and the Dutch are in a bad position,” Zbanic said. “But they still have the mission and the means to protect people, but they don’t shoot a single bullet.”
As Aida frantically ran back and forth to try to save his family, Dutchbat was seen moving slowly and reacting passively, as if he were in another world.
Zbanic read the last UN report on Srebrenica, drafted by David Harland, a peacekeeper in Bosnia at the time.
“He helped me a lot in understanding a number of things because he was able to speak with commanders, and I didn’t. I asked them a few times, but they refused. David read the script and gave me very helpful comments, ”said Zbanic.
The technical aspects of the film are also complex.
Instead of filming in Srebrenica, the crew had to film in Mostar and Stolac in Herzegovina.
The current Serb mayor of Srebrenica, Mladen Grujicic, denies that a genocide has occurred – in spite of the court rulings – as well as the political basis of the Serbs in both Bosnia and Serbia.
Djuricic, the actor who plays Aida, and her Serbian husband Boris Isakovic, who plays Mladic, have been viewed by the Serbs as a traitor for participating in the film.
Meanwhile, Bosnian families are still searching for the remains of about 1,000 victims killed in the Srebrenica genocide.
“Politically, the genocide in Srebrenica remains a subject of major clashes in our region… It’s difficult to make a film in such an emotional and toxic environment, especially especially to think that genocide deniers are still in our government.
“They won’t support the movie – on the contrary. We couldn’t shoot the movie in Srebrenica because the mayor was one of the people who turned it down, ”said Zbanic.
Meanwhile, some financial support comes from Europe.
“Bosnia produces one film a year on a budget of about one million euros ($ 1.2 million),” said Zbanic. “And our movie [costs] 4.5 million euros ($ 5.4 million).
“So it was a huge effort to put money together. We had nine European countries copied this film. “
Zbanic said she was looking forward to everyone watching the movie.
“Even though it is about 8,372 [people] Zbanic said.
“It’s a movie about Bosnia but I think it’s a movie about people, about America, Europe and the world. It tells the story of how the actions of nationalism and fascism, which looked funny or ridiculous at the beginning of such movements, could end. “