Sarajevo’s True Stories Market calls upon the power of cinema to make its stories known
- Dedicated to improving dialogue among the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the True Stories Market aims to bring stories from the Yugoslav Wars to the big screen
For the fourth year running, the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink talks have hosted the True Stories Market, an open call for filmmakers and producers interested in filming stories from a region that is still facing the deep and far-reaching consequences of the aftermath of past conflicts. This year, film and TV professionals were presented with four cases selected from the archives of key organisations working to document the Yugoslav Wars. Presenting the stories to the public for the first time, panel moderator Robert Tomić Zuber noted that these are the “stories coming from out of the shadows”.
In order to facilitate their transition from market to screen, an open call after the festival invites filmmakers to apply to execute a project inspired by one of the market’s highlighted stories. Supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung, Heartefact, Ryco and Aljazeera Balkans, this year’s True Stories Market – like the Dealing With the Past programme which it is a part of – is seeking to highlight the “universal human need to seek out the truth and reconcile with the past, both the personal and the political”, notes Maša Marković, the programme manager of Dealing With the Past.
Aleksandar Žolja, from the Living Library project, presented the story of Fikret Bačić, who left to work in Germany in 1991, only to discover upon his return a year later that all 32 members of his extended family had been executed outside their family home in Zecovi. To this day, he has been unsuccessfully trying to find the remains of his family, and to persuade the local authorities to approve a memorial paying tribute to all victims, regardless of their ethnicity. Žolja noted that stories told in the Living Library arouse deeply emotional reactions from listeners, and that that is precisely the purpose: “Young people must hear about the dark side of the war to reduce their prejudice against victims of other nations and ethnicities.”
Senija Jakupović (IZVOR, a database of missing and killed civilians from Prijedor) presented the story of Selma Čengić, a nurse from Bosanski Novi, who left Bosnia during the war. When her husband was called back to fight, she joined him, feeling a deep hatred towards Serbs and Croats. Working as a nurse – and being the only woman there – she realised while talking to the injured that Serbs and Croats had been fighting alongside Bosnian Muslims from the beginning. Urging the producers to start a project inspired by the story, Jakupović noted: “We have little opportunity to talk and hear about the women in the war. Still, they played a huge role. I hope that after this story, we’ll be able to talk about them more.”
Mirna Buljugić (from the Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network) was a court reporter at war-crime trials, and was especially moved by the stories of the survivors of shooting massacres. She presented the story of Husein Jakupović, who was one of the 12 survivors of the Koričani Cliffs massacre. On 21 August 1992, members of the Prijedor Police Intervention Squad executed more than 200 civilians there, and the remains of more than 100 victims were finally laid to rest this year. Jakupović was riding a bus when it stopped near a cliff, and the passengers were ordered to kneel before they were shot from behind. Jakupović, kneeling in the front row, jumped off a cliff to save himself. The Hague-based United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried and convicted the masterminds and some of the direct perpetrators of the massacre.
Finally, Iva Radić (Documenta – centre for dealing with the past) talked about her own 28-year search for the remains of her father, killed in Vukovar. Born to a Serb mother and a Croat father, her father’s side of the family wouldn’t take them all in to safety in Split; upon their return to Vukovar, soldiers of the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army, their neighbour among them, stopped their car and ordered them out. Her father, suffering from muscular dystrophy, was separated from them and taken to be questioned in nearby Negoslavci – and that was the last time that Radić saw him. She is still searching for his remains: “I will go to the sky and back to find my father because an innocent man cannot end like that.”
A story presented at the market in 2017 is currently being developed as a documentary film entitled Mamula All Inclusive. The story, about the World War II concentration camp “Mamula” being turned into a luxury resort, will be directed by Aleksandar Reljić and produced by Greenfield Production (Novi Sad, Serbia).
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