Quo Vadis, Aida? dramatizes the genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. It has been nominated for an Oscar for best international feature film. Super LTD hide caption
Filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic was a 17-year-old student who lived with her family in Sarajevo when the Bosnian War began in April 1992. When clashes over the independence referendum first broke out in Bosnia, she said no one thought there could ever be a full war. “It started like [the] Riots at Congress in January in [the] US … I was happy when this happened because I thought what a cool thing not to go to school and have [the] whole city, “she says.
Instead, the ensuing siege of Sarajevo became part of the longest and bloodiest armed conflict in Europe since World War II. The experience that marked Zbanic as a young woman – and as an artist – and her award-winning films have explored the legacy of war with a particular focus on women’s stories. Your latest film Quo Vadis, Aida? is one of the nominees for this year’s Oscars for Best International Feature and dramatizes the genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995.
Journalist Christiane Amanpour, who covered the war for CNN, said she was “stunned” by the film and it led her directly back to the asymmetry of the conflict. “I was a young woman in my first real war and it took several weeks, maybe a few months, to understand that in Bosnia there was no question that there was an aggressor, clearly defined, and there were victims, clearly defined aggressors were white Christians who were Serbs and Bosnian Serbs. The victims were white European Muslims, and the aggressor’s target was precisely the definition of genocide: to destroy, in whole or in part, a community based on ethnicity. “
Zbanic has spent years researching the politics and real-world mass violence that took place in Srebrenica, but she says she knows she can make a slice of the cinema too. “Media deals with numbers or shocking images, but cinema allows us to identify with characters and to spend time with them and be with their decisions [the] the feeling that it’s in real time, “she says.
An audience can imagine a lot of things, so I didn’t show blood and violence in an obvious way. I really think we don’t have to see men in the blood to know they were all killed.
Her version avoids on-screen violence and widescreen battles for a more immersive and intimate experience than traditional Hollywood war films. “I just respect [the] Audience very much and I know that [an] The audience can imagine many things so I didn’t show blood and violence in an obvious way. I really think we don’t have to see men in the blood to know they were all killed. “
Zbanic tells the story of Srebrenica through Aida, a former teacher who works as a translator for the United Nations Armed Forces. Played by acclaimed Serbian actress Jasna Duricic, Aida rushes back and forth between meetings and military negotiations while Srebrenica is ethnically cleansed. Her own family joins the thousands of refugees at the gates of the UN base in search of protection. Despite her privileged status as a member of the United Nations, she cannot guarantee the safety of her own family. According to Zbanic, the United Nations betrayed the people it wanted to protect, and Aida is a tragic figure who stands at the intersection of this impossible position. In a landmark 1999 report, finalized under then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the United Nations recognized its systemic failures to intervene and protect the civilian population in Srebrenica.
Although Bosnia is the entry point to this year’s Oscars, the film was just too painful for some viewers to watch. Amir Husak, a Bosnian filmmaker and media scholar at the New School, says, “I can tell you that many of my friends and family members said they couldn’t finish the film in one sitting. It’s a collective trauma that we speak about it and it brings back many painful memories. ”
Jasmila Žbanić wrote and directed Quo Vadis, Aida? Super LTD hide caption
More than 25 years after the Srebrenica events, the bones of missing victims are still in mass graves around the forests where the film is set. Zbanic says she followed the stories of these discoveries and Quo Vadis, Aida? includes Aida’s own search for closure in the present. In this on-screen portrayal, Zbanic says she wants to pay tribute to the Mothers of Srebrenica who have shown a way beyond the politics of vengeance.
“These women from Srebrenica are what we once thought were saints,” adds Zbanic. “They really go back and face these perpetrators and there has not been a single case of revenge. They shaped our country in a completely incredible way because they said no revenge, we just want people who have committed murders to be in prison and they always talk about truth and justice, not revenge and how we have to live together. “
Hence the title of the film – Quo Vadis, Aida? – – taken from the apocryphal Christian tradition – asks the question at the center of the film’s story: where is Aida going and where is society going after the end of the war?