Cultural director urges Serbian cinemas to show Srebrenica film

Bosnian film director Jasmila Zbanic speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sarajevo
Bosnian film director Jasmila Zbanic speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina December 22, 2021. Picture taken December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

December 29, 2021

By Fedja Grulovic

NOVI PAZAR, Serbia (Reuters) – The director of a cultural centre in a largely Muslim part of Serbia has appealed for an acclaimed movie about the massacre of 8,000 Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995 to be shown across Serbia.

More than 1,000 people watched “Quo Vadis, Aida?”, named Best Film in the 2021 European Film Awards, in two screenings in the town of Novi Pazar on Tuesday – the first time it had been shown in any part of Serbia.

“The tickets sold out in an hour and a half,” said Husein Memic, whose centre showed the movie. “We are appealing for the film to be screened across Serbia; it’s absolutely senseless for it to play only in Novi Pazar.”

Jasmila Zbanic’s movie has also not had a public showing in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, which has thrown Bosnia into turmoil by opposing a law making it an offence to deny that the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide.

Both Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic were found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre.

Zbanic said many cinemas and distributors in other parts of Serbia and in Bosnia’s Serb Republic had wanted to show the film, but feared recriminations or reprisals.

“My intention was never to divide,” she said.

“My intention was to tell the truth, and for people who don’t know about Srebrenica or who even deny Srebrenica to sit and watch it as a movie about a mother who wants to protect her two kids. Because that’s what happened there.”

Serbian state television, RTS, has always shown previous prizewinning films. But following appeals to air “Quo Vadis, Aida?”, it said it would not make programming decisions under media pressure.

Boris Isakovic, who plays Mladic in the movie, said he was disappointed that it was being viewed through a political lens, not as an artistic creation.

“It is clear that (the showing of) this film has been censored,” Isakovic said. “But that says a lot about the power of film: that it is a powerful weapon through which stories can be told.”

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade and Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by Kevin Liffey)