10 Dec 10

What’s Behind The Urge To Censor?

By Elma Tataragic

On the same day, almost two months ago, when the uproar started about the shooting of Angeline Jolie’s film in Sarajevo, I attended a controversial exhibition in Berlin.

For the first time, an exhibition had opened on Hitler and on Hitler’s Germany. While I pushed through the crowd, I could not help but noticing the elderly citizens of Berlin who certainly remember this most detested historical figure.

The people of Berlin are divided about the exhibition. Half of them believe it should never have taken place because this page in German history is not something of which they are proud.

The other half see it as an important step towards introducing the public to historical facts.

Both sides are probably right. The former are ashamed of their country’s past, but they’re primarily afraid of relativizing a dangerous ideology. They don’t want this evil to happen again and are afraid because they know it could.

We know for certain that evil can happen again, because it happened to us in Bosnia and Herzegovina less than 20 years ago.

And here at home, both victims and criminals are thinking and saying much the same as some of the people in Germany: we must stop free thinking, stop culture and stop art.

But, how is it that we are not ready to accept and listen to someone’s story and have to condemn it beforehand? It is only possible because we are superficial.

In Berlin, I felt fear at the exhibition because once again, over several hours, I experienced a lesson in a horrific part of history, albeit from a more intimate point of view.

I’m not certain whether I would want this exhibition to open in my own town or city, were I a German. But, as I said, I am not German, so I will not judge that.

But I remember very well what happened 18 years ago in Bosnia, and I won’t allow anyone to make a decision on my behalf on whether a film, exhibition or play is acceptable or not.

I have the right to say this because I am a victim, too. I was a victim during the war and right now I am still a victim of the society in which I often feel a stranger. It should not be like that, which is also why I’m also afraid.

Museums and gallery spaces assume the erasure of borders and of fear. They are, in a sense, out of time and out of geographical place - spaces in which we silently observe the world presented to us, before drawing conclusions on our own.

Let us now, with cool heads, return to the problem of the shooting of the Jolie film.

Will she be shooting in Sarajevo at all? I doubt it. I assume that the shooting will boil down to two or three days at most, passing through Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Why? Firstly because we don’t have the conditions to accommodate a foreign film crew. We do not have a studio or a film laboratory, which are “sine qua non” for filmmakers, without which it is hard to attract Hollywood producers, who do most of their shooting in studios.

On the other hand, it is a nightmare to import equipment into Bosnia because we are not signatories of the ATA Carnet - though we have allegedly signed this agreement and it will take effect soon, so that this problem will be taken care of, to the great satisfaction of Bosnian film producers.

Then again, in Bosnia we have no tax benefits to attract foreign film crews, as opposed to Hungary, for example.

When all these elements fall into place, matters are bound to look simple to a Hollywood producer. He will shoot where he has all these things because that way life is easier and cheaper.

If we add in the campaign that is still being spread in Bosnia against the film  – about which we still know little – it’s clear that they will run away from us as far as they can.

Interestingly, not a single journalist has really scratched the surface of this story, and everything has instead been based on the level of gossip and rumour.

Why so? One can only conclude that our society is superficial, banal and quite brutal. I envy the Germans their civilizational awareness - even if it is sometimes dangerous. Bans are certainly more dangerous.

Talk about it!

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