The 23rd International Sarajevo Film Festival held from Aug. 11-18 this year featured the productions of many accomplished directors as well as young talents and films being featured for the first time. One of the most striking productions was that of young director Ersan Bayraktar's "Sarajevo March." The film has a unique plot that begins with the breakout of the Bosnian War in 1992 and proceeds with original stories of authentic people who personally lived through the Serbian persecution, overlooked by the rest of the world with the exception of a few fellow countries. For years even after the war, men were executed, women were raped and thousands of children became the victims of social and economic shortcomings.
Starring Sefik Beli Talovic, Eset Muracevic, Amela Cengic, Edis Kolar, Sajma Hamzic, Ismeta Tunovic, Esad Pozder Dedo, Ziba Jazic, Mubera Poplata and Saban Begovic, the "Sarajevo March" kicks off by showing how the Yugoslavian Public's Army and the Serbian forces planned to invade Sarajevo five years before the actual seize in a studio in Sarajevo.
The documentary, which premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival shows that while the Serbians were planning to start the war quickly, Bosnians were holding peaceful protests on the streets of Sarajevo. During a march on April 5, guns were fired from tall buildings around the area.
Suada Dilberovic, a medical student, lost her life in the shootings. On April 6, 1992, Serbians started attacking the cities where the Muslim population was high. Upon these events, the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially declared war on June 20, 1992 and then-President Alija Izetbegovic announced the annulment of the Bosnia and Herzegovinian Parliament on the same day.
As the chief commander, he assumed all the responsibilities of the parliament. Since Sarajevo was the capital of Bosnia, the fall of it meant Bosnia would go down in history. Thousands lost their lives in the war that lasted for 3.5 years. Like Izetbegovic said, "Not the words of our enemy but the silence of our friends remained behind [us]."
What happened to civilians during the war is told from the perspective of real-life survivors in the striking film, which can be viewed as a documentary in terms of its authenticity and the portrayal of real-life places in Bosnia. Director Bayraktar spoke with Daily Sabah about the inspiration behind the film and the filming process.
DAILY SABAH: What urged you to choose to tell this story?
BAYRAKTAR: Shooting this movie is more like a duty than anything else, as a Bosnian child. Waiting for the thing we are afraid of is feeling the fear constantly. Those who survived in Sarajevo felt the pain of this fear throughout the war. My mother, who was in a country (Turkey) where she could not even speak the language, waited for news from her family in Sarajevo for three years. She raised me amid these challenges. After the war, I used to sit by the tanks and listen to their stories about my childhood in Sarajevo. That Bosnian generation endured the genocide and went down in history as heroes, veterans and martyrs. They told their children the story of victory. Now, it's our job to tell these stories to future generations.
DAILY SABAH: The characters and locations in the movie are in Bosnia. How did you arrange these connections?
Like I said, my childhood was spent in Sarajevo. A large part of my family is still there. The Sarajevo siege is something I have been working on for a long time. We visited Sarajevo before the movie and met with several agencies. One day, we met with Nermin Bosnjak, who sold magnets and bonks on the bridge where the World War I started, just opposite of the Sarajevo Library. We realized that he was a graduate from Sarajevo University's Department of History with an M.A who was without a job and whose father was a war veteran. He established all the connections we needed and introduced us to Avdo Huseyinovic and Bakira Hasecic. These are two war heroes who work hard for what they believe. Thus, we didn't shoot the film in a foreign country, we told the stories of our families and our friends.
DAILY SABAH: The movie does not express agitation but a very heavy emotional expression. How did you create this effect?
The story told here is a story of heroism. Even though what happened was a form of cruelty, people who have mercy need to direct this feeling towards themselves and those who remain silent in the face of such cruelty. The story of Sarajevo does not convey any pity in it. We made every effort to create a narrative that steers clear of agitation. Does one want their loved ones to seem weak and pitiful? Of course, many tears were shed during the filming. There are many scenes that were emotionally too heavy which we did not include in the final edition. These remained as a secret between friends. This movie is just a glimpse of this friendship that is shown to the viewers.
DAILY SABAH: What was the international reaction at the festival and where will it be screened in Turkey and around the world?
It was important to us for the movie to premier at the Sarajevo Film Festival. The reaction was really great as producers and members of the press from various countries took an interest in the movie. We aim to see the movie be included in the selection of other international film festivals.