SARAJEVO (Reuters) - “Belvedere,” a new feature film by Bosnian director Ahmed Imamovic, is the first to deal directly with the legacy of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, one of Europe’s worst atrocities since World War Two.
The movie, which hits theatres in Sarajevo on December 2, is named after a real-life refugee camp set up for those who survived the massacre but are searching for dead loved ones.
“This film is not about the war but about the consequences of the war,” Imamovic told Reuters in an interview this week. He won the European Film Award for best short film in 2002 for his “Ten Minutes,” about the siege of Sarajevo.
“I think it is even more difficult and gruesome to watch the effects of terror than the act of terror itself. It’s terribly humiliating to watch these women who cannot find the bones after 15 years,” said Imamovic, who also wrote the script.
Belvedere tells the story of the lonely lives of mostly female relatives of massacre victims, who spend their days wandering from mass grave to identification center, hoping to find the remains of their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers.
Bosnian Serb forces led by fugitive general Ratko Mladic slaughtered around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the days after July 11, 1995, when they captured the eastern town of Srebrenica which was declared a United Nations-protected zone.
They buried the victims in hundreds of mass graves hidden across Bosnia, which are still being searched by forensic experts who dig out the remains and try to identify them through DNA analysis, matching bone extracts with relatives’ blood.
The massacre was declared genocide by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
In the film, the surviving relatives struggle to adjust to postwar life in a society that is in transition, and remain isolated in the closed world of their refugee camp where their thoughts and actions center around their sense of loss.
An attempt by a Srebrenica youth to escape life in the camp and enter the world of reality television fails as he realizes there can be no escape from the past until justice is served.
“We unfortunately have a bloody past but we should not forget it,” Imamovic said. “I’ll be very happy if the audience, in the 90 minutes of the film, feels the discomfort, the nausea that these women have been feeling for the past 15 years.”
Black-and-white footage used to portray the life of the main character, whose inner voice articulates lines of a famous Bosnian poet, is in stark contrast with the bright colors of the reality TV show and the small talk of its participants.
“All that is happening seems as if it is happening in the darkness,” said Munira Subasic, president of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa, who took part in the movie. “He has shown our suffering through the darkness.”
A dozen women who lost loved ones at Srebrenica are featured in the film going about their business of attending the exhumation of mass graves and identifying remains.
“We all felt as if that fictional mass grave was the real one,” said Sabaheta Fejzic, who found and buried her son last year but is still searching for her husband.
“It was as difficult as if it was a real grave and we all cried after the scene ended.”
Editing by Mike Collett-White and Paul Casciato