27 Apr 15

Film Honours Sportsmen's Wartime Bravery

A documentary about the courage of Yugoslav sportsmen who defied nationalist hysteria in the 1990s has premiered in Belgrade, focusing on their little known heroic acts off the pitch.

Ivana Nikolic
Film aims to foster reconciliation among the younger generation in the region.

A new documentary, “I Know What is Offside”, tells the courageous stories of basketball and football players who opposed war and the rise of nationalism in the former Yugoslavia and who refused to let the conflicts of the 1990s destroy relationships.

Dinko Gruhonjic, a journalist from Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, said the inspiration for the film came from the story of Srdjan Aleksic, a Serb who was murdered in the Bosnian town of Trebinje while trying to save his Bosniak friend’s life during the war in 1993.

“We were convinced there were still good stories from the war and we saw that such people, who did good things, were invisible to the rest of society,” Gruhonjic said after the screening on Friday.

The film explores the tragic fate of Goran Cengic, a former handball player from Sarajevo, who was killed by Veselin Vlahovic "Batko" when he tried to save the life of his Muslim neighbour in 1992.

It also follows the wartime and post-war stories of some of the best Yugoslav basketball players who managed to stay in touch with one another despite their different nationalities - including Mirza Delibasic, Bogdan Tanjevic, Kresimir Cosic and Dejan Bodiroga.

“We wanted to show that living together is possible and that good people are the basis for that,” Arijana Saracevic Helac, one of the authors of the film, said.

“We have a moral obligation to remember them,” she noted, adding that making the film had been a way to pay tribute to the people who put humanity and friendship first.

Dragan Kapicic, a former Yugoslav basketball player, talked in the film about his trip to Zagreb during the war in Croatia. He recalled going by car with his wife, as they headed to the funeral of one of his fellow basketball players, Kresimir Cosic.

The war did not prevent him from going, and he felt no fear while driving through Croatia.

Kapicic said films like this should set an example to the coming generations.

“This film is a sort of catharsis of what we [sportsmen in the former Yugoslavia] went through together. Younger generations should build the future on these examples because sport can do a lot in the field of reconciliation,” Kapicic said.

The documentary is one of five that were filmed as a part of the project “Living Together,” which has been funded by the European Union and implemented by the Independent Journalists Association of Vojvodina and the Association of BH Journalists.

The five documentaries focus thematically on different parts of the region, where they have been presented, one after another, since February. The project will last until the summer.

So far, “I Know What is Offside” has premiered in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and other cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is due to be shown in the Serbian cities of Pancevo and Novi Sad.

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