Back to Bosnia
Behind Enemy Lines
The Hunting Party
Life Is a Miracle
No Man's Land
Pretty Village, Pretty Flame
Shot Through the Heart
Welcome to Sarajevo
Have you seen these films? Are any of them accurate (in any regard) in your opinion?
I have to admit, this is the first time I've heard about some of them. So let's take them in order.
"Beautiful People" - Never seen it, but this review suggests it's not ham-fisted manichean propaganda. As for authenticity, I've heard of plenty of refugees from different ethnic groups getting into fights in their adoptive homelands, and the heroin addict kind of sounds like the author of "My war gone by, I miss it so". Other things, like the rape story or the reporter's "Bosnia syndrome" may be exaggerated for dramatic effect, but they are there for symbolism.
"Behind Enemy Lines" - Utter rubbish. The only American pilot ever shot down over Bosnia was Lt. Scott O'Grady, and he flew a single-seater Air Force F-16. He spent several days in the forests of western Bosnia until the Marines located him and airlifted him out, without any interference by the Bosnian Serbs. In the movie, however, it's a Navy plane, the pilot dies, and the navigator survives to avoid deadly pursuit by rabid Serbs so he can deliver proof of an atrocity patterned after the Srebrenica story. I'm not going to waste words on such rubbish except to note the sheer idiocy of it.
"The Enclave" - Dutch miniseries spinning the story of Srebrenica from the standpoint of Official Truth. If the Dutch want to embrace the myth that casts them as evil enablers of genocide, who am I to stop them? Though judging by the troops that volunteered to testify for Karadzic's defense, maybe they've finally had enough.
"Grbavica" - Even if Jasmila Zbanic made a very artistic film, there is no denying that its main function is propaganda. Zbanic herself spoke about "raising awareness" and spearheaded an effort to get government subsidies for women who claimed to be rape victims.
As a sidebar: The whole "systematic rape" story, exploited endlessly by peddlers of atrocity porn, has never been substantiated. Of course there were rapes; no one denies there were rapes, or that this is repugnant. But organized on a large scale? Balkans wars were fought in an atmosphere of near-complete breakdown of society, closely resembling the Hobbesian "state of nature." Obviously, people capable of murdering their neighbors with glee, slitting throats, slicing off body parts and burning villages would not shirk from non-consensual sex. It would be interesting, however, to compare the supposed "mass rapes" of Bosnia with the numbers of women sexually assaulted by U.S. troops in Iraq - or, say, Okinawa (where there has been no war for almost 54 years).
Another issue are the "rape children." Bosnia was a very secularized place. Generations that had grown up in Communist schools were socialized in Communist morals - where abortion wasn't dirty or sinful, but practical. Only the very old were religiously observant, until the war and its aftermath (no atheists in foxholes, etc.). So I find it exceptionally hard to believe that many women would actually choose to keep rape-conceived children. Especially if they went to the West as refugees (see "Beautiful People," above). Perhaps that may have happened in some cases, for whatever reason, but as a widespread phenomenon it is simply unlikely. If someone has actual data to the contrary, I am prepared to revise my opinion, though.
"The Hunting Party" - A horrid flop no one watched, and with good reason. Every time Hollywood tries to do a Bosnia story, it takes the already incredulous reality and makes it less believable by exaggerating it and changing it to seem more real.
"Life is a miracle" - Any Kusturica film is an exercise in "magical realism," where reality is just a convenient starting point for art and storytelling. However, there were more than a few inter-ethnic love stories (and even more inter-ethnic breakups) to base this on.
"No man's land" - This would have been a fantastic stage piece. Every time the film dwells on the two soldiers - the Serb and the Muslim trapped in the booby-trapped trench - you can feel the drama and the energy. Every time it tries to look like a Hollywood production - with the hapless Western journalist, the checkpoints, the clueless UN and the video clips of "news" - it goes off into hack territory. It's almost as if Tanovic made a tasty anti-war drama cake, then ruined it with the clumsy frosting of Muslim propaganda.
"Pretty village..." - If anything, this film is too realistic. Dust, mud, blood, rain, twitchy lighting of rural Eastern Bosnia, they are all here. Some characters may feel stereotypical, but they capture the archetypes (the mad machine-gunner, the slutty nurses, the "peace" protesters, the Army officer) that were all too real. It may simplify certain things, and contrive others for the purposes of storytelling, but for all its flaws it is still the most "accurate" of the lot.
"Savior" - Again, filled with contrivances, from the American protagonist to the events he encounters on his journey. And yet it depicts the Bosnian war with brutal honesty: Serbs rape Muslim women, Muslims rape Serb women, both sides kill children with impunity. Villainy is all around. That is enough for some to dismiss it as "Serb propaganda" (Serb director and actors, but American writer and producer - Oliver Stone, no less), but that's what happens when one strays from the manichean formula of "Serbs evil/Muslims good." I also want to point out that even though this film features a "rape baby" as the pivotal plot device, the circumstances of her birth and her fate actually make sense both within the context of the story and within the context of the war at large.
"Shot Through the Heart" - Based on a supposedly true story of two friends (a Serb and a Muslim) who end up as opposing snipers in Sarajevo, this HBO production is remarkable insofar as it admits there actually were Muslim snipers. Then again, it presents the Muslim as a marksman who merely fights the evil Serb, who is "terrorizing" the city by killing women and children. If you really want to watch a Hollywoodized sniper movie, go see "Enemy at the Gates."
"Warriors" - I was unfamiliar with this BBC series. Apparently, it focuses on the British peacekeepers caught in the middle of a nasty war between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia. I have no idea how accurate it may have been.
"Welcome to Sarajevo" - This was actually the first movie about Bosnia to be filmed on location, and just after the war ended. Unfortunately, while locations may have been somewhat authentic, the story was not. There really was a journalist who tried to help some orphans, and managed to evacuate one in particular - but the orphanage was nowhere near the front line, and the orphan in question was a Serb (in the movie, she's a Muslim; can't have your victims mixed up, right?). The filmmakers ruined a perfectly good story of genuine humanitarianism by bending it to fit the incongruous "Serbs evil, Muslims good" dogma. Typical.