Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years.

The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 in particular, but also the general impact and aftermath of war in general.

Serbian helmer Aleksander Reljić is currently making “Mamula All Inclusive,” a documentary based on a story presented at the True Stories Market in 2017. The film examines the plan by Egyptian tycoon Samih Sawiris to build a luxury hotel on the site of the former Mamula concentration camp on the Montenegrin isle of Lastavica in the South Adriatic Sea – “a horrifying place of execution” during WWII, where more than 2,000 civilians were held by Italian fascists.

Local activists, concentration camp survivors and organizations are protesting the decision of the Montenegrin government to approve the deal and are calling for Mamula to instead be turned into a cultural-educational center and museum dedicated to the victims of fascism.

Sawiris has offered to build a “hotel-museum” with a memorial room for the victims.

Reljić said he found the idea of transforming the former Marmula concentration camp into a luxury hotel “unacceptable, regardless of what the solution for this ‘hotel-museum’ will look like.” His documentary will seek to show the “universal problem of degrading ethics” and the declining value of public interest in the face of money and the personal interest of individuals, he added.

In addition, Al Jazeera Balkans, which produced a previous story acquired from the True Stories Market – Bosnian helmer Muris Beglerović’s “Restless Dreams,” about a man who has spent more than two decades collecting human remains from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that left an estimated 8,000 dead – has expressed interest in some of this year’s projects, according to event organizers.

The True Stories Market this year presented five stories collected by various organizations and NGOs that are documenting and researching the conflicts.

“The Fight for Justice by a Kosovo War Rape Survivor,” documented by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), examines sexual assault during the Kosovo War in 1998-99. The story focuses on Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman, who became the first survivor of wartime rape in Kosovo to speak publicly about her ordeal 20 years after the end of the war.

“End of the Road for the Victims of the Koricanske Stijene/Koricani Cliffs Massacre,” another BIRN story, looks back at the 1992 massacre of 200 civilians at the Koricanske Stijene, or Koricani Cliffs, on Mount Vlasic in central Bosnia. On July 20, 2019, remains of more than one hundred victims were finally laid to rest.

“The Story of Iva Radić, Who Is Still Searching for the Remains of Her Father Killed in Vukovar,” from Croatia’s Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past, follows Iva Radić, who has spent the past 28 years searching for her father, a Croat who disappeared after the family was captured by Serb soldiers in 1991, when Radić was only 8 years old. She, her sister and her Serb mother were released from custody days later. She never saw her father again.

The wartime life of a young Bosnian nurse who managed to escape to Germany during the Bosnian War only to return to her homeland to tend to the wounded is presented in “The Story of Selma Čengić,” from Izvor, a Bosnian association established by families of missing persons and civilian victims of war.

“The Story of Fikret Bačić,” from the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, is about a man who, while working abroad, learned that all 32 members of his extended family had been executed outside their family home in the village of Zecovi, including his wife, children, mother, nieces and nephews. Bačić, who has yet to find the remains of his family, took part in the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes. He has also launched an initiative to erect a memorial to the 102 children murdered in the region during the war. Although he envisages a memorial that pays tribute to all victims, regardless of their ethnicity, he has been unable to convince local authorities to approve the plan.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content