“Bosna!” is a zealously powerful film about the bloodshed in Sarajevo. Stirring footage contributes to the authenticity and impact of a docu that never claims or attempts to present a balanced view. Timeliness and global attention to the still-unresolved conflict ensure showings on TV and perhaps even theatrical distribution in major Western markets.
“Bosna!” is not the only docu about the region this year; “MGM Sarajevo — Man, God, the Monster,” made by local filmmakers, is being shown in the Directors Fortnight at Cannes. The only similarity between the two works is their filmmakers’ goal to make the Western world realize the extent of atrocities in Sarajevo — and to plead for immediate action to terminate them.
“Bosna!” is divided into five loosely chronological segments, from April 4, 1992, when the war began, to the present. On closer examination, however, there’s a lot of overlap, which is a problem. No matter how a chapter begins, invariably the reportage and imagery switch to the brutal destruction of Sarajevo’s Bosnians by the fanatical Serbian aggressors.
Three clear issues emerge. First is the systematic annihilation of Bosnia’s civilian community (schools, churches, homes, etc.). The second theme is the long silence of the West.
Third and most consistent motif is the staunch determination of Bosnians to defend their country, even as their families and friends continue to be massacred. Each section dwells on the Bosnians’ moral strength, showing how their makeshift militia (many of them youngsters) are using primitive weapons against the far-better-equipped Serbs. The filmmakers insist on categorizing the Bosnians as victims, while the latter resiliently defy this label.
Some sketchy info is offered about the historical origins and political context of the conflict, but “Bosna!” is unabashedly subjective in its ideology and p.o.v. The narration is spoken by co-director and co-scenarist Bernard-Henri Levy, one of France’s most respected philosophers and political commentators.
Docu is at its best when using primary sources and firsthand interviews. The cruelest evidence is provided by a Serbian soldier who matter-of-factly confesses how he slit the throat of a Bosnian “like a pig” and raped seven girls , two of whom he later killed.
Pic points to U.S. State Dept. censorship of repeated messages about the death camps built by the Serbs, drawing an analogy to the Holocaust.
Tech credits are very good, which is a major achievement considering the difficulty and risk of gaining entry into the region; on some occasions, the camera crew is just a few yards from the battlefield.