Bosnia Express at the Hot Docs Festival of Toronto
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Balkan war. A tragic moment in European history worth remembering. Women symbolically represent the reconstruction. Bosnia Express is a documentary film – a historical reading key – that deals with a global dimension, since the history of the Balkans is a European history. From its beginnings, Loups Garoux Produzioni has always been close to the humanitarian crisis experienced by those communities. So, it joined the International campaign to ban landmines. While the Ottawa Treaty banned the use and production of these deadly weapons within national borders. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the largest North American documentary festival will host Bosnia Express from 29 April to 9 May 2021.
A train passes slowly across the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Sarajevo, Tuzla, Srebrenica, Konjic, Mostar. Women, religion, war, violence, and music are thrown on the screen like dice on a chessboard, or as Russian Roulette. Up for grabs is truth or lie, life or death. The camera explores what is behind the rediscovered order of things. How far can our gaze reach to know? A dance school, the hallways of the Islamic Pedagogy Faculty, a rock music classroom, the Medjugorjie hill… from all these places the characters carry out their research.
How can we hold the executioners or the victims to account for that horror? War does not have a woman face. Nothing happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We go to Bosnia to lose our (mental) borders. To acquire new ones. You enter it after asking for permission, taking care not to make anyone nervous. You remove your shoes, and wash your hands and feet before entering the mosque, and suddenly you end up on a carousel that, after repeated laps, takes you back to the start.
Bosnia is a frontier point. Which frontier? An access point for Muslims in Europe? Or for Catholics who, driven to the East, would like to creep into lands historically ruled by the Eastern Church?
It is a frontier of a latent Europe, a border of East and West, of schisms and heresies. Or a no-man’s land, belonging to the Bosnians. That is all. Left alone, and sometimes proud of it.
Leone’s book offered me the structure upon which my thoughts, my visions, my charms, my love affairs slid.
Shielded in front of death, I was suddenly reborn on the notes of a piano touched by a little girl’s fingers, or with the smile of a girl wrapped in a purple veil. If nature is neutral, the images we create are not neutral: we need to clean them from ideologies and fanaticisms. My first aim was to try to see clearly on that tangle web of interests between religious delirium and political and criminal power.
Bosnia Express is the third stage of a trilogy that began in 2003 with Our garden’s most beautiful rose, then continued in 2004 with Adisa or a thousand years story. It is about an adventure in the Balkan night, chasing the motionless dance of ghost carts populated by frightened gypsies who did not laugh anymore. With Bosnia Express I fooled myself that I could have the admission ticket to document the raids, the widespread atrocities, the complicities perpetrated at the various levels. However, I surrendered, raising my hands in front of the women’s faces who bewitched me and led me elsewhere, telling me another truth. If you want to understand what happened in ex-Yugoslavia, look in our faces. Does not war have a woman face? – I said to myself.
In the documentary, I initially want to ban the speech, but it came back to help me with its questions. At the end of each day of shooting, I felt like the images alone could not convey the complexity that I perceived. I saw the Bosnians, grinning, looking at me, confident of misleading another foreigner armed with patience, but with little knowledge of their stuff.
The documentary takes more the form of an intimate diary, alternating representation, story and metaphor, tragedy, irony and poetry, shown sometimes unpaired, sometimes miraculously together. This is a film full of questions. The author directs them to the audience, in order to pick up the threads of history, and overcome the flatteries of the clichés, risking losing himself endlessly inside the Balkan carousel.
Francesca Pedrazza Gorlero
Loups Garoux Produzioni
In association with
Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Ansambl Iskre of Tuzla
Adriano Alampi, Luca Bertolin and Kenan Hadžimusić
Subtitles and translation
Emiliana Cordone e