News 19 Aug 15

BIRN Film on Kosovo Makes Debut in Sarajevo

BIRN documentary on some of the most brutal crimes of the Kosovo war had its international premiere at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival.

Denis Dzidic and Elvira Jukic BIRN Sarajevo

The latest BIRN documentary, "The Unidentified," which names the Serbian officers who ordered attacks on Kosovo villages around the city of Pec/Peja in 1999 as well as those involved in the cover-up operation to hide the victims’ bodies, had its international debut on Tuesday at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

The documentary, the result of a two-year investigation, takes viewers back to 1999, to the villages of Ljubenic, Cuska, Pavljan and Zahac near Pec/Peja in Kosovo, where Serbian fighters killed more than 118 Albanian civilians. Their bodies were either burned or removed. Some were later found in mass graves at the Batajnica police training centre near Belgrade in 2001.

The trial of 11 men allegedly involved in the killings - 10 accused of being direct perpetrators - is ongoing in Belgrade. In February 2014, nine of them were sentenced to a total of 106 years in jail but an appeals court annulled the verdict in March, calling it “incomprehensible and contradictory” and sent the case for retrial.

Following the showing of the film before the full auditorium of Sarajevo's Cinemacity complex, a discussion took place with the film directors, Marija Ristic and Nemanja Babic.

Ristic said that the movie was primarily made for the Serbian public, which has not faced up to the atrocities committed in Serbia's name in Kosovo. However, because of the widespread culture of denial of such crimes it had been impossible to organize a showing in Serbia.

"We tried to rent a movie hall, but were rejected each time. Now our strategy is to try and show it in the region and create pressure to show the movie in Serbia," Ristic said.

She added that the movie had a universal value as it did not focus on the ethnicity of the perpetrators but testified to crimes committed by a group of criminals against innocent people.

Nemanja Babic said some of those who had been scheduled to be interviewed for the film had eventually refused to speak on the record because of fear.

Lydia Neely, a 25-year old New York resident who attended the screening, said that the movie was "beautiful" although its story was "horrible".

"It is good that the film raised awareness of a situation [which] as an American I didn't know," she said.

Alexander Donev, from Bulgaria, said that this kind of film should make its way to public broadcasters in order to generate public debate.

"This is a very important film, disturbing, brave. The obligation of all of us is to face crimes committed in our collective names," Nihad Kresevljakovic from Sarajevo said.

The Sarajevo Film Festival was started during the war-time siege of the city and has grown in recent years into one of the biggest such events in Europe. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the region and the world to the Bosnian capital.

This year, this festival will show 259 films from 57 countries, many of them films from the Balkans and Southeast and Central Europe.

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