Sjeverin Abduction

A memorial to the victims of Sjeverin
A memorial to the victims of Sjeverin

On October 22nd 1992, 16 Bosniak civilians, fifteen men and one woman were taken out of a bus traveling from Sjeverin to Priboj. Both Priboj and Sjeverin are in Serbia´s Sandžak region, (with a large Bosniak population), Sjeverin lies on the very border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. People on the bus that morning were going to work in Priboj, the town being one of the main industrial centres in the area. In order to get to Priboj from Sjeverin the bus had to pass thru Bosnia and Herzegovina for a brief period due to the location of the road when it was stopped by Serb paramilitaries in a place called Mioče just across the border. After the initial Serbian attack on Eastern Bosnia by various Serb paramilitary formations, units from Serbian State Security and the former JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) and the ethnic cleansing and massacres that took place in the towns and villages all along the Drina Valley in the spring, summer and fall of 92, that area, ( aside from Srebrenica, Žepa and Goražde ) was now firmly in control of Serb forces.

In order for the workers, especially non-Serb workers to pass through safely the firms they worked for had issued special permits, Serb forces has established a curfew and were checking the buses and cars passing through their area. The bus that morning, like most mornings was full of people going to work and school. One of the survivors of the kidnapping at Mioče was then 13-year-old Admir Džihić who was going to Priboj with his uncle Esad, Admir to school and his uncle to work in Priboj. He recalls that on that day Serb units blocked the road, waiting for the bus, at around 6:30 in the morning 9 heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues entered the bus and started asking for people´s id-cards and permits, yelling “Muslims get out” to the Bosniaks on the bus, 13-year-old Admir managed to avoid the kidnapping as one of the Serb fighters mistook him for a Serb boy named Ilija. His uncle and fifteen other Bosniak passengers were taken out of the bus, the only woman taken, Mevlida Koldžić asked the Serb fighters where they were taking her brother, who was also on the bus, once they knew the two were brother and sister, i.e. both were Bosniaks, the Serb fighters told her to get out too, saying; “if he´s your brother then you come with us too”.

The Serb fighters took out fifteen men and one woman out of the bus and told the driver to drive on, telling the driver that “he saw nothing and heard nothing, and should somebody say something, they´ll know who it was”. The bus drove on and nobody, not one of the Serb passengers on the bus objected to the kidnapping of the people from Sjeverin.

After they were taken out, Serb fighters told them to get in the back of a military truck that was parked nearby. The boy,  arriving at school in Priboj started crying but was too afraid to tell his teacher what was bothering him, while the driver of the bus informed the employer of those kidnapped about what had happened, he in turn informed the police in Priboj. The news of the kidnapping started to spread in Priboj while the police did nothing. Several of the relatives of those taken that day believe that had the police and local authorities acted immediately they would have been able to free those taken within an hour, since everyone knew who it was that had taken them. The bus had arrived on time in Priboj and the police was informed about what had happened.

According to a  documentary by Ivan Markov, Otmica (Abduction) the truck also passed two check points on its way to its final destination across the border in Bosnia; one manned by soldiers of the federal army ( former Yugoslav People´s Army) and one manned by the Serbia´s Ministry of the Interior (MUP). In other words; Lukić and his men were able to pass thru two checkpoints manned by security forces controlled by the Serbian state  while carrying in the back 16 Serbian citizens of Bosniak nationality. At around 12:00 in the afternoon on the 22d a truck was spotted outside of the police station in Višegrad (Bosnia) in the truck was a group of people dressed in civilian clothes, three Serb fighters stood by the truck; Milan Lukić, Oliver Krsmanović and Serb fighter from Goražde known as “Kokošar”. All three were known members of the infamous Serb paramilitary unit Osvetnici (Avengers), responsible for the majority of the atroceties commited agianst the Bosniak population of Višegrad. From the police station the truck headed north towards Hotel and Spa Vilna Vlas, 7 kilometers north from Višegrad. During the war Vilna Vlas was turned into rape camp where Bosniak women and girls were systematically raped by Serb police, paramilitary units and soldiers.

In 2013, Australian actress Kym Vercoe´s play about the Vilna Vlas rape camp was turned into a film (For Those Who Can Tell No Tales) starring herself and filmed in and around Višegrad, including sites of several atrocities, one of those being the house on Pionirska Street where Milan Lukić along with several members of the “Avengers” locked 60 people in house and set it on fire, 53 people were burned alive. Two weeks later Milan Lukić repeated the act on Bikavac, locking 71 people in a house and setting it on fire. He would not reapet his mistake from Pionirska Street, this time only person survived live pyre, Zehra Turjacanin, she agreed to testify against Milan Lukić at the Hague in 2008.

Vilna Vlas
Vilna Vlas

It´s not clear why the 16 were  kidnapped in the first place, there are  speculations that they were taken in order to be exchanged for Serb soldiers held by Bosnian Army, or that it was simply a matter of ethnically cleansing the Bosniak population that lived near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Once at Vilna Vlas the men and one woman kidnapped were severely beaten by their captors, Milan Lukić and his men photographed themselves beating and torturing the victims at the lobby of the Vilna Vlas Hotel. Parts of the footage  was showed in the 2002 documentary made by Markov.  That´s also the last time they were seen alive. After the beating they were most likely taken to the banks of the Drina river and executed. Lukić´s modus operandi was executing the victims at close range and then dumping them in the Drina river. During the 2010 exhumations of Lake Perućac the remains of Medredin Hodžić (one of the kidnapped) were identified along with 250 others exhumed from the dried lakebed. The others are still missing, their remains unaccounted for. As I wrote last year; the heroic effort to exhume the bodies at Perućac lakebed was a last ditch effort and it happened by accident: In 2010 a small boat got stuck in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plant, in order for the turbines to be repared the dam had to be emptied. That gave people from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina what was in effect their last chance to track down the bodies of of Bosniak civilians who had been killed in Visegrad and dumped into the Drina River. At this point there is no chance of exhuming more remains, including those from Sjeverin. The authorities in Republika Sprska and Serbia are too afraid of the consequences draining the lakes on the border between Bosnia and Serbia might have, what might be found there, let alone draining the Drina basin, the bottom and the mud which most likely hides the largest amount of remains.

Screen caps of the snuff film made by Milan Lukic and his men
Screen caps of the photographs made by Milan Lukic and his men in the lobby of the Vilna Vlas

Ivan Markov´s documentary; Otmica (Abduction) from 2002. (Photos of the torture shown from 43d minute)

Day after the kidnapping the family members of those kidnapped gathered in the village along with Serbian officials when a truck with eight men showed up in Sjevrin, on the hood of the car was traditional black flag with skull & bones of the Serb nationalist Nazi collaborationist Ravna Gora Chetnik movement. ( During the Second World War, Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović´s Chetniks viewed the Bosniaks, Croats and the Partisan resistence as their real enemy, the collaboration with Fascist Italy and the Nazis in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina meant that both Germans and the Italians looked the other way as the Chetniks carried out mass atrocites against the Bosniak population of Eastern Bosnia and Hercegovina. The movement, which was banned during the Communist years was resurrected  leading up to the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia.)

In the truck was among others Milan Lukić, according to witnesses; he and three other men started firing automatic rifles into the air close by the gathering of the family members of the kidnapped and the officials. According to one of the officials interviewed for Markov´s documentary the local population of Sjeverin complained that these type of incidents were almost a daily occurrence in Sjeverin and the surrounding area, sometimes several times a day, including firing burst from machine guns of the houses of the residents of Sjeverin. The kidnapping and the fact that Lukić had showed up at the gathering making it clear that he was able to do to the citizens of Sjeverin what he wanted with impunity meant that the Bosniaks of Sjeverin decided to abandon their homes and head away from the border towards Novi Pazar and Priboj, the largest towns in Sandžak. Afraid of taking the Sjeverin-Priboj road which meant that they would risk coming across Lukić and his men, the Bosniaks of Sjeverin took the longer route to Priboj going thru Serbia, many walked on foot for over 8 hours on the 20km trek to Priboj.

Admir Džihić, the then 13-year old boy who´s uncle Esad had been taken away by Lukić and his men, and the only one from Sjeverin that could identify the kidnappers, given that the Serbs on the bus were at that time at any rate, reluctant about identifying the kidnappers moved to Priboj where he and his mother heard that someone was asking questions about him and his family. According to Džihić, he started to see men in uniform at the lobby of the hotel where he was staying. According to Admir, his mother had been told by someone at the Priboj municipality building that people were looking for him. Fearful that the kidnappers from Sjeverin were looking for him, his family relocated first to Novi Pazar, with the aid of an NGO, and later to Turkey. 10 years later, Admir and the Džihić family moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the time of the filming of the documentary Admir and his family had not been back to Sjeverin. According to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center, from October 1992 to the 20th of January 1993, 50 houses in Sjevrin were looted and several burnt down.

Four days after the kidnapping, on October 26, members of Serbian Ministry of Interior (MUP) pulled over a car in Sjeverin, in the car were two men, Milan Lukić and Dragutin Dragićević from Višegrad. During the identification process, Lukić pulled out fake ID-card issued to him by the local Višegrad Police Station. During the search of the car large quantities of weapons and ammunition were found and the two men were taken to jail in nearby Uziće, for possession of unsilenced firearms and falsified identification papers, a crime punishable with up to 10 years. However, after a week in jail Lukić and his partner were released by order of the court in Uziće. According to the documentary this was most likely due to the intervention of the late Radmilo Bogdanović, then head of the Serbian MUP (Ministry of the Interior) and as Markov notes the éminence grise of the Serbian Security structures. A powerful, behind the scenes decision-maker and close Milošević ally. Bogdanović just happened to be in Priboj and Uziće on the 1th of November. Three days later, on the 4th, Lukić and Dragićević were relesed from Uziće jail.

Due to Bogdanović´s intervention both Lukić and Dragićević were released from the Uziće jail with the explanation given that they did in fact not use falsified ID-cards, that they were citizens of a another country and that they were “on assignment”. The justification given for Lukić´s and Dragićević´s release from Uziće jail goes along with what has what has subsequently been established at the ICTY,  that far from simply being “out of control Bosnian Serb paramilitaries” as Belgrade propaganda and officals liked to portray their henchmen in Bosnia and Herzgovina people like Lukić and Dragićević were an integral part of Belgrade´s  “Greater Serbian” military-political project in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It wasn´t until July 2005 that the men suspected of masterminding the kidnapping and execution of the civilians from Sjeverin were found guilty of the crime in a Belgrade court. Twelve years after the war crime had taken place and three years after the fall of Slobodan Milošević. Milan Lukić and Oliver Krsmanović were sentenced to 20 years (in absentia) along with Dragutin Dragićević who also received 20 years (also in absentia) while Đorđe Šević recived 15 years. That same year, in August 2005 Milan Lukić was arrested in Argentina on an Interpol warrant and brought before the tribunal at The Hague. In 2009 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against the civilian population of Višegrad. He was not tried for the kidnapping and execution of 16 Bosniaks from Sjeverin.

On the 23d anniversary of the war crime, last year Omer Hodžić, the youngest son of Medredin Hodžić, the only one of the victims whose remains have been found told Serbian Danas that he expects Serbia to settle the matter of Sjeverin which he said was a legal precedent not only in Serbia but in Europe as well. He was joined by Sandra Orlović head of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center who said that it was important for the public to know that the state of Serbia was treating the family members of those kidnapped and murdered as second class citizens. Noting that the victims have not even received the status of “civilian victims of war” which would make the eligible for reparations from the state.

According to N1 Srbija ( a CNN affiliate in the Balkans)  Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor´s Office had agreed to talk to them about Sjeverin during the last year´s commemoration but then quickly changed their mind saying that they were “busy”, briefly commenting on the case by saying that “jusitice had been served” in the case of Sjeverin. However the families of the victims as well as members of various NGO`s don´t agree with this, saying that there has never been an investigation about the apparent role the Serbian state in the crime.

In October, last year Sandra Orlović also gave an interview for Sandžak Media pointing out that a legal team from the Humanitarian Law Center had sued the state of Serbia for the deaths of the 16 Bosniaks from Sjeverin. According to Orlović it´s clear that Serbia had throughout the entire war in Bosnia and Herzegovina openly and regularly facilitated the Bosnian Serbs both financially and materially and that this was no longer in dispute given the massive amount of evidence presented at the ICTY. She also pointed out that Serbia had a responsibility to protect those people as citizens of Serbia given that it was obvious that units of Bosnian Serb army and paramilitary forces were active in the area where the abduction took place. Orlović reminded the viewers that a day before the abduction, a 20 year-old, Sabahudin Ćatović  was taken away by Serb paramilitaries in Sjeverin never to be seen again. A day later his brother was taken by Milan Lukić and his men along with 15 other Bosniaks. There is also according to Orlović today in Serbia and in the region still an unwillingness to acknowledge that these people were simply killed because of who they were. That the state armed men like Milan Lukić who killed people simply based on what their names were, or their religion.

Göteborgs Filmfestival: For Those Who Can Tell No Tales: 24 jan-3 feb 2014

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Den bosniska regissisören Jasmila Zbanic nya film: For Those Who Can Tell No Tales kommer visas I dagarna på Göteborgs Filmfestival, det finns fortfarande biljetter att boka. Festivalen kommer pågå from 24 jan till 3 feb.

Biljetter kan bokas genom att klicka på den här länken: Göteborgs Filmfestival

Besök också gärna filmens Facebooksida

Filmen utspelas i den bosniska staden Visegrad, som efter den serbiska övertagandet april 1992 blev en plats för några av krigets värsta illdåd. Sammanlagt mördades ca 3000 människor i staden, män, kvinnor, och barn under våren, sommaren och hösten 1992. Stadens kvinnliga befolkning drabbade särsklit hårt av pogromerna som tog plats i Visegrad. Hotellet Vilna Vlas, strax utanför Visegrad förvandlades till ett våldtäktsläger, där ett stor antal övergrepp mot bosniakiska kvinnor begicks.

Enligt vittnesutsagor, journalister och utredare hölls kvinnorna i hotellet i fyra månader. Under den tiden medlemmar från olika serbiska paramilitära grupper, till exempel, The White Eagles ( Vita Örnarna ) och dömde krigsförbrytare Milan Lukic grupp The Avengers (Hämnarna ) (Lukic dömdes till livstids fängelse av ICTY för brott som begåtts mot den bosniakiska befolkningen i Visegrad) Lukic grupp tillsammans med den vanliga bosnienserbiska armén och polisen som deltog i ett stort antal krigsförbrytelser i östra Bosnien, besökte ofta hotellet där de våldtog och misshandlade de fängslade kvinnorna. Av de 200 kvinnor som hölls i hotellet bara fyra överlevde.

Filmen kretsar kring den australiske turisten Kym som lockades till Bosnien Hercegovina av nobelpristagaren Ivo Andric bok ; Bron över Drina. Hon kom till Bosnien Hercegovina och Visegrad framförallt för att se den kända bron, en av Bosniens ikoner från Andric bok; “Na Drini cuprija” (Bron över Drina) hon hade förtrollats av boken och hon hade förtrollats av det Visegrad som beskrevs av Andric i hans storverk. Vercoe längtade till Bosnien Hercegovina för att i första hand kunna besöka alla de platser som beskrevs i boken. Däremot det hon fann på plats i Visegrad var någonting helt annat.

Väl framme i Visegrad så insåg Vercoe att dagens Visegrad inte är i närheten av det Visegrad som Andric beskrev. När Vercoe som är annars teaterskådespelerska insåg att bakom fasaden dolde sig hemska berättelser om mord och våldtäkt blev hon som bedövad.

För mer läsning om Visegrad :

Visegrad in Denial Over Grisly Past av Rachel Irwin, Institute For War and Peace Reporting

Unforgiven, unforgotten, unresolved: Bosnia 20 years on. Av Alec Rusell Finacial Times

Historien om Milan Lukic ( på svenska ) Amnesty Press

Visegrad Genocide Memories

BLOODY TRAIL OF BUTCHERY AT THE BRIDGE; av Ed Vulliamy . The Guardian 1996

For Those That Can Tell No Tales: Bosnian film director finally wrestles away Visegrad from Emir Kustrica

The Old bridge in Visegrad ( Na Drini Cuprija)
The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija)

This article was originally published: 21-11-2013 in the Croatian Daily, Jutarnji List.

By Nenad Polimac

In Jasmila Zbanic film “Na Putu” ( On The Path) there is an excellent scene in which the heroine of the story ( Zrinka Cvitešić) gets drunk and decides to head to Republika Srpska with her friend ( Nina Violić) to visit her childhood home. The home is now occupied by others, once there the couple is surprised by a curious young girl who wants to know what the two women are doing. If an older person had appeared before them, the heroine of the story (Cvitešić) would have probably tried to might light of the moment by joking, but in the presence of the young girl that most likely had no idea that another family had lived in the house where her family now lives did not seem appropriate. The scene is full of emotional powerlessness and is one of the most suggestive examples in Bosnian postwar cinema of the consequences of the Bosnian War.

There are no such scenes in Zbanic new film; For Those That Can Tell No Tales, not because it´s somehow a lesser film, but because the film serves different purpose, and tells a completely different tale. For Those That Can Tell No Tales does not tell a straightforward story, in fact it´s much closer to a conceptual art piece than a movie.

In case you happened to see Zbanic ´s documentary “Slike s ugla” from 2006 ( Images from a Corner ) a documentary that received a prize at ZagrebDox then you`ll understand what I mean. In that piece Zbanic tried to find out what had happened to a close friend of her´s that was wounded on a corner in Sarajevo in 1992. And why a French photographer that was on the scene did not try and help her, instead of just photographing the incident, in all the photographer spent three rolls of film shooting Zbanic´s wounded friend.

As the documentary rolls on, we don´t actually get to know much about the girl on the corner, we don´t even get to see the French photographer, however in on moment we hear her voice, in that one moment, that one associative set in which we also get to hear the name Srebrenica a since of terrible discomfort arises, a discomfort that stays with you. The most important thing is not to fulfil the original objective, but to focus on something real, like the horrors of the Bosnian War and to find a place for them in the characters everyday life. If you accomplish that then, you have done a whale of a job.

That´s exactly the kind of film For Those That Can Tell No Tales is, Zbanic had in November 2011 in Sarajevo seen a play by Australian actress and performer Kym Vercoe called; “Seven Kilometers North East” in which Vercoe had summarized her experience from her trip to the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad. She came to Visegrad because of the book “Na Drini ćuprija” ( Brigde on The River Drina ) by Ivo Andric.

In Visegrad she found accommodation at the hotel and spa resort called Vilna Vlas, she was overwhelmed by the old bridge build in the 16th century during the Ottoman Rule. It wasn’t until she returned to Australia that she found out that the bridge was a scene of serial butchery and rape back in the spring and summer of 1992, and that the idyllic hotel and spa, Vilna Vlas was used by Serb soldiers and paramilitaries for raping Bosniak (Muslim) women, 200 in total were raped there. While in Visegrad, Vercoe had no idea what had happened in the town, nobody told her anything. Given the fact that there is no memorial to the victims in Visegrad, only to those that did the killing and the raping, Vercoe set out to make a play that would serve as a memorial to and a reminder of the victims of something that cannot, be forgotten.

Zbanic came to Vercoe with the idea of making Vercoe´s trip to Bosnia into a film, and that was the inception of: For Those That Can Tell No Tales. It´s not a tale of fiction but of re-construction. The film has a relaxed and easygoing tone while Vercoe is in Sarajevo, while the since of menace and discomfort grows upon Vercoe´s arrival in Visegrad especially after she finds out what happened in the town. There are no grand gestures, it´s all toned down, there are no flashbacks to the horrors of the war, still Zbanic does not leave out any of the horrific details. Aside from Vercoe´s play the film also serves as a form of memorial to the victims, a memorial that they are not allowed to have in Visgerad.

Emir Kusturica has tried to maintain the romantic feel of the bridge captured in Andric´s novel in his own Kamengrad (Andricgrad) However anyone who watches Zbanic´s film will know that what is going on is an attempt at covering up war crimes. The Bosnian director has in a way taken Visegrad back from Kusturica, and in that alone accomplished something big.

Kym Vercoe in:  For Those That Can Tell No Tales.
Kym Vercoe in: For Those That Can Tell No Tales.

Kym Vercoe: During the filming in Višegrad we did not dare say Jasmila´s name

Sarajevo-based Bosnian news site Klix.ba published an interview yesterday with the makers of a new Bosnian film that deals with the sensitive topic of war crimes and sexual violence against women in war and the denial and suppression of these crimes in some parts of the country. The film; FOR THOSE WHO CAN TELL NO TALES takes place in the town of Višegrad in south-eastern Bosnia.Since the Dayton Accords split the country in to two enteties in 1995 Višegrad has been a part of Republika Srpska. During the war in Bosnia the town was the site for some of the worst atrocities of the war. 1.785 people were killed in the town in 1992; some 200 women were raped in the hotel Vilna Vlas which features in the film.  On 4 December 2012 Milan Lukić  was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)   for the crimes of;  persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, murder, inhumane acts, cruel treatment and extermination. His cousin Sredoje Lukić was sentenced to 27 years for the crimes of; inhumane acts, cruel treatment; aiding and abetting persecutions, murder, inhumane acts and cruel treatment.

By Klix.ba  2012 -09-26

Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić new film FOR THOSE WHO CAN TELL NO TALES had its European premiere last night at the 61 annual film festival in San Sebastian, Spain. Today the film was shown to reporters with a press conference on which the three screenwriters Kym Vercoe, Zoran Solomun and the director Jasmila Žbanić spoke about the making of this film, which is based on actual events.

According to Žbanić she wanted to make a film that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina twenty years after the conflict. I wanted to do something that showed the situation and the feelings in the society twenty years on. – When I saw Kym´s play on the subject I told myself; this is what I want to say, so I approached her about turning her play into a film. According to Žbanić all the parts in the film some based on actual vents, were played by professional actors such as Kym Vercoe.

The film has a very documentary feel to it; we are talking about real people and real events that took place in Višegrad.  1.785 people were killed in the town in 1992; some 200 women were raped in the hotel Vilna Vlas. The hotel (Vilna Vlas) which features in the film is a real place, it exists. However we wanted to show what people might do today when they discover that something like that took place.

When asked about the “culture of silence” in post-war Višegrad that film deals with Žbanić said that the film crew had a chance to experience that problem at first hand while filming in Višegrad. According to Žbanić; “the film crew did not tell the people in the town what they were filming. – We knew it would be difficult to shoot this in Visegrad. – We were advised by some not to do that. One of our screenwriters, Zoran had to pretend to be a Serbian director shooting a completely different film.”

The star of the film, Australian actress Kym Vercoe said that at no point did the crew consider filming anywere else but Višegrad.

“It´s a small town so we had to reveal some parts of the plot. Specifically, that it was about an Australian turist and her desire to travel to Visegrad and Bosnia and Herzegovina after she had read the novel by Ivo Andric. I am completely convinced that there exists a “culture of silence” in Višegrad.” According to Vercoe the crew was very nervous while filming in Višegrad.

“I have the sense that when it comes to Višegrad , not only is everything that happened “hushed down” but certainly all but forgotten. The silence, the suppression and denial of events that took place there during the war is so profound. Still it was very interesting that during the filming in Višegrad we did not dare say Jasmila´s name out loud. We were told it would be best not to do so. Jasmila is a Muslim name and she is a familiar figure in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Zoran Solomun one of the screenwriters said that; “it´s only thanks to the fact that he does not have a Muslim name that he was allowed talk to the people and try to find out some things about what happened there.” According to Solomun, some of the residents said to him frankly; “You know what Lukic (Milan Lukic) did” “To me personally it was important to see that some of the people in the town were aware of what had taken place right before their eyes” Solomun added.

During the press conference the filmmakers added that they would try to show the film across Bosnia and Hezegovina.

According to Žbanić; “for some the story about Višegrad  is not a welcome one; however we will try to show it anyway. We want to screen the film in Banja Luka but we have yet to hear from the local film distributors there considering that the viewing of my last film was not permitted there.  – Even if we can´t show the film in cinemas, we´ll try to screen it on alternative locations since we want young people to come and see the film and talk about it. For the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina it´s important that others see and feel their pain and to see that which they are not permitted to discuss.”

FOR THOSE THAT CAN TELL NO TALES is included in the Competition Programme  at the festival in San Sebastian and will compete for the Golden Shell and five other awards

Kym Vercoe, Visegradbo från Australien

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Den bosniske nobelpristagaren Ivo Andric bok ; Bron över Drina ledde australiensiskan Kym Vercoe till den bosniska staden Visegrad. Hon kom till Bosnien Hercegovina och Visegrad framförallt för att se den kända bron, en av Bosniens ikoner från Andric bok; “Na Drini ćuprija” (Bron över Drina) hon hade förtrollats av boken och hon hade förtrollats av det Visegrad som beskrevs av Andric i hans storverk. Vercoe längtade till Bosnien Hercegovina för att i första hand kunna besöka alla de platser som beskrevs i boken. Däremot det hon fann på plats i Visegrad var någonting helt annat.

Väl framme i Visegrad så insåg Vercoe att dagens Visegrad inte är i närheten av det Visegrad som Andric beskrev. När Vercoe som är annars teaterskådespelerska insåg att bakom fasaden dolde sig hemska berättelser om mord och våldtäkt blev hon som bedövad.

Det som var mest chockerande för mig personligen var det faktum att jag kunde åka till Visegrad som turist och ändå hade ingen som helst möjlighet att se några som helst tecken på vad som hade hänt i staden under kriget säger Vercoe till bosniska dagstidningen Oslobodjenje. Öppen och sympatisk, Vercoe som charmade alla nyligen under Sarajevo Filmfestivalen säger att det faktum att de som idag bor i Visegrad saknar intresse för de brott mot mänskligheten som skedde i staden var också en av sakerna som drev på henne att ta utforska ämnet än mer.

Jag undrade ihärdigt ifall det fanns någonting jag kunde göra för att hedra offren, framförallt kvinnorna. Jag har jobbat inom teaterbranschen i över ett decennium nu, så jag tänkte att det kunde vara ett sätt för mig att kanalisera det jag kände.

När Veroce återvände till Australien bestämde hon sig för att förvandla det hon kände till ett föreställning under namnet ”Sju Kilometer nordöst” (Sedam kilometara sjeveroistočno) kort efter att den hade haft premiär i hemlandet så visades den i Sarajevo också 2011. Det var just det föreställningen som ledde den bosniska regissören Jasmila Zbanic till att spela in filmen ”For those who can tell no tales” som efter att den hade haft världspremiär på filmfestivalen i Toronto kommer ha sin europapremiär i San Sebastian 26 spetember. Veroce som har huvudrollen i filmen var också med och skrev manuset.

Att filma med Jasmila var verkligen en helt otrolig erfarenhet. Det var en väldigt intressant process, att kunna omvandla min berättelse till film och spela in den med ett så hängiven team. Jasmila ansträngde sig verkligen för att göra en så bra film som möjligt. Det gjorde också att inspelingen var också väldigt utmanande dock ändå trevligt avslutar Vercoe…

Filmen hade stora framgångar på festivalen i Toronto både med publiken och kritikerkåren. När det gäller just publiken så är det enligt Veroce väldigt positivt att det var knäpptyst i salongen under visningen. Man fick nästan intrycket att publiken inte ens andades, det var en fantastisk känsla. Efter visnigen hade vi chansen att prata med publiken och jag tror att det var ett väldigt viktig inslag. Folk stoppade oss på gatan och hade frågor om filmen, flera dagar efter visningen. Jag hade också möjligheten att träffa flera anhöriga till offren från Visegrad säger Vercoe. Det var en otrolig upplevelse.

Inom kort väntar två premiärer, den europeiska premiären vid filmfestivalen i San Sebastian och sen i början på oktober väntar den bosniska premiären. Vercoe hoppas att även publiken i Spanien kommer gilla men framförallt förstå filmen och att diskussionen kommer fortsättas, en diskussion som handlar om viktiga historiska händelser. Vercoe tillägger dock att för henne är ändå den bosniska premiären viktigast. Det kommer bli jätteintressant att se vad publiken tycker om filmen och hur de kommer reagera. Jag känner ett band till Bosnien, med landets historia och dess framtid – det är inte någonting som jag hade väntat skulle ske när jag kom hit som turist säger Vercoe och tillägger; Jag väntar otåligt efter chansen att delta i diskussion med den lokala publiken om filmen.

Det händer sällan att en turistresa förändrar ens liv i grunden, än mindre att den leder till en film om den förändringen. Vercoe kände av Visegradbornas lidande på sitt eget skinn och har lovat sig själv att hon kommer kämpa för att sanningen kommer fram, men; – Även om jag har varit med om mycket sen jag besökte Visegrad så är jag inte säker att när det gäller det temat som filmen behandlar att mycket har hänt. Idéer som föder dolda och omtvistade historiska sanningar leder till ett dilemma för offren runt om i världen.

Jag är förvånad och tacksam att Visegrads historia berörde mig så djupt. Jag tror att jag fortfarande inte har lyckats bearbeta allt, men jag känner bara att jag blev en del av en mycket större berättelse.

Denna intervju med den australiensiska skådespelerskan Kym Vercoe publicerades idag 2013 09-25 i den Sarajevo-baserade bosniska dagstidningen Oslobođenje. Länken till intervjun på bosniska kan hittas här…

Trailer till filmen: For those who can tell no tales

Under Bosnienkriget så utsattes Višegrad för omfattande utrensingar av staden bosnienmuslimska (bosniakiska) befolkning i de så kallade Višegradmassakrerna sammanlagt mördades över 3000 människor mellan april och september 1992.

För vidare läsning om Visegradmassakerna:

Visegrad in Denial Over Grisly Past ;  by Rachel Irwin Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Unforgiven, unforgotten, unresolved: Bosnia 20 years on by Alec Russell Finacial Times

Historien om Milan Lukic Amnesty Press (På svenska)

The Reluctent Gandarme :  part 1 and part 2  by Chuck Sudetic The Atlantic

Visegrad Genocide Memories Genocide against Bosniaks in Visegrad 1992-95

BLOODY TRAIL OF BUTCHERY AT THE BRIDGE; Bosnia the secret war: Ed Vulliamy ; The Guardian