The first Serbian-Croatian co-production after the break-up of SFRY

Tatjana Nježić,

The documentary Vukovar authored by Drago Hedl (correspondent of Feral Tribune weekly in Osijek, Croatia), directed by Janko Baljak and produced by B92 is the first Serbian-Croatian cinematic co-production since the break-up of the former Yugoslav socialist state. The film has taken up a very painful subject - the war-time atrocities committed in Vukovar in the early 1990s. Talking about the film that will have its premiere at the Festival of Documentary Film in Zagreb on February 24th 2006 and two days later at Belgrade’s FEST, Drago Hedl told Blic daily:

- We tried to give accounts of this terrible story from both perspectives. The most important feature of this film is this two-layered structure. The collocutors were also the participants in these frightening events, their creators and their victims. There is no narration or commentary during the movie, only photos, documents from various archives and live testimonies. The film is a record of historical, social and emotional consequences. I think the last of the three are also the gravest, because history is written this way or that, dates are interpreted differently and events are ‘explained’ in various ways, but emotional wounds of not just those who lost someone, but also of people who were not directly involved, are horrendous and long-lasting. Even for people who were just silent witnesses of the events that unfolded, who failed to act when they could have. This failure to act is sometimes as deadly as the crimes themselves.

Did you try to dig into the reasons behind the war-time horrors in Vukovar?

We did not aspire to give final answers and the final truth. I would like someone to make a better and more comprehensive story with more answers after this film. We tried to identify the reasons for war in a town that lived a peaceful life, that was reasonably wealthy, with no unemployment, with many mixed marriages and inter-ethnic bondages. How did this terrible explosion of violence happen here, of all places? We dealt with the genesis of these events. The story begins with the first multi-party elections in Croatia and the first rifts that looked benign. Generally, with the first tears in the fabric of Vukovar’s society that looked pretty much intact up to that point. We observe the first barricades, the taking up of arms that initally looked sporadic, we can see how fear escalates on both sides, and the massacre of Croat policemen in Borovo Selo, which was the turning point between attempts to calm down the tensions and the break-out of full scale conflict and how the whole situation, unfortunately, gets out of control… This is where the question is posed of how real or imaginary was the town’s harmony until then…

What kind of problems did you encounter during the making of this film?

- The film is comprised of three segments. The first deals with the pre-war period, the second covers the siege and defence of Vukovar (escalation of conflicts) and the third describes the war-crimes trials before the special court. We did not have many problems in the process of gathering material for any of the three segments. With Croatian contributors, two or three did not respond to our invitation to provide testimonies, mainly due to health problems or other, I believe, justified reasons. As for the Serbian side, there were some problems, because the documentary was being filmed right about the time when the video footage of the massacre committed by the Scorpions Unit was made public, so there was some fear that this movie could also have connotations such as these. The documentation that we used was actually everything that we could get hold of and some of it will be made know to the public for the first time.


Final Cut contending for the Heart of Sarajevo
On Monday, August 21, the 12th Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF) Documentary selection will screen a B92 production documentary directed by Janko Baljak: “Vukovar – Final Cut”. SFF Documentary selection will present the films that are mostly dealing with the subject of the quest for the truth. More...


Trailer - video clip [RealPlayer]

Serbian paramilitary forces - video clip [RealPlayer]

Đuro Hodak - video clip [RealPlayer]

Krmača - video clip [RealPlayer]