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