Film on Vukovar neither Serbian nor Croatian

V. Milivojevic,
Glas Javnosti,

The principle was the same as in the films "Anatomy of Pain", "The Crime That Changed Serbia" – not a word of commentary. Not by me as a Serb, nor Drago Hedl as a Croat. It is left to the audience to conclude who won, who lost, why everything happened, says Janko Baljak

BELGRADE – Premiere of the film Vukovar: The Final Cut, signed by Feral Tribune journalist Drago Hedl as a scriptwriter and head of the Croatian-Serbian journalist team (Marija Molnar, Dragana Karpos, Jasna Jankovic, Filip Svarm, Klara Kranjc) and Belgrade director Janko Baljak, is scheduled for late February at the Zagreb Festival of Documentary Film. Announcement of the premiere of the first Serbian-Croatian documentary caused quite a stir and controversy in the Croatian public, primarily over the Belgrade director and the fact, as stated by the revolted part of media, that "Serbs are making films about the Homeland War".

"We have been working for over a year, since November, but we did not want to make a great fuss of it. We are currently in the editing and post-production phase. Film is produced by TV B92, the team of contributors is "fifty-fifty", it is a Serbian-Croatian story about Vukovar, which is virtually a precedent. The film is still not finished, but the subject is strong, curiosity of the public large".

"The film has been invited to premiere in Zagreb, at a relatively young (in its second year), but relevant festival headed by Zarko Puhovski. It is important for the film to be shown first there, because it is a much bigger issue in Croatia, people are still sensitive to the subject. It will have much more reactions. Over here Vukovar is something that happened 15 years ago. People are much more concerned about Kosovo, Montenegro, who cares about Vukovar any more! We have worked on the film long and hard and it won't be much loved neither here nor there," says Baljak and adds:

"B92 production has been deemed traitor many times in the past. In Croatia Drago is considered a traitor who uncovers crimes against Serbs. Question of one's extent of treason or patriotism will come up once again. We see it as a sort of provocation. We are aware that people will talk much more about the politics than the film. Film is a much bigger thorn in the side over there than here. We haven't been invisible. While shooting around Zagreb and Vukovar for a month and a half, we have been attacked for being a Belgrade production house doing a film on the Homeland War. But we have been working in the best tradition of the BBC documentaries. The principle is the same as in my previous films, The Anatomy of Pain and The Crime That Changed Serbia. Not a word of commentary. Neither I as a Serb, neither Drago as a Croat. It is left to the audience to conclude who won, who lost, why everything happened," says Baljak.

For Baljak, much more important than Croatian or Belgrade premiere (FEST or Short Film Festival are being mentioned, but outside competition, because Baljak is the board president, and thinks the film participating in the competition part of the festival would be inappropriate) is the Vukovar premiere.

"I'd like if a few Serbs left and Croatian defenders gathered in one place for the Vukovar premiere. They live divided, as in Kosovo, only the tensions are not as high, they still speak the same language. The schools are, however, separated, and histories taught in them different," emphasized Baljak.

Particular values of the film, in Baljak's opinion, are exclusive archive material (previously unattainable military archive and amateur footage) and the fact that the protagonists of the warring sides are once again in one place.

"On every November 18 there is a commemorative celebration in Vukovar. They talk about what happened, they talk about the Hero City, volunteers. However, in our film both sides are confronted, invited to offer their own version. It will be a shock for both sides. After 15 years of a single truth. Film won't be liked by extremists on each side. We are aware that the absolute truth is impossible, but the important thing is that we were not one-sided, we are still learning a lot of things," added Baljak.

Among the interviewees who agreed to talk to the B92 crew was Martin Spegelj.

"In Serbia people see him as an evil guy, it is as if I talked to Hitler himself. In the film you can also see chief commander of the Vukovar's defence, warriors, large part of the Croatian political scene, people who were mobilized over here by force, volunteers, Chetniks, nationalists, people in high places of the time. Film tells its story rather with images than with words, you can watch it as a regular movie," said Baljak.

Biggest achievement – collecting the acrhive

"We have shot the film with less trouble in Croatia than over here where there is still a great fear from the Hague. The Vukovar Three, Seselj, Milosevic, political and military top is in the Hague, unavailable. Those who are available mostly do not want to talk. We have over twenty hours of archive material from Croatian and Serbian television, Zastava film, Vjesnik, the Vukovar city library, private recordings. Biggest achievement was to collect the archive. We are still in complete chaos, film will run 90 or 100 minutes. We have the rough shape of the material, we still haven't polished everything. It was yesterday that I received material I will still use, the verdict for the Ovcara crimes," emphasized Baljak.

Cinematographic pieces of an impossible puzzle

"Vukovar: The Final Cut is a cinematographic attempt at making a valid and honest story about what happened in Vukovar in spring, summer and autumn of 1991. And some time before that. And some time after that tragic year of 1991. And about historical and emotional consequences after years of pain, suffering and destruction. Our goal was unbiased, non-propagandist, neither a Serbian nor a Croatian film. We have tried to assemble the pieces of an impossible puzzle with the help of the survivors and available archive. Film serves the truth. We were all interested in the story about Vukovar because it is a part of all our lives. We have tried to figure out why exactly Vukovar, a rich Slavonian town famous for being a 'small Yugoslavia', Tito's exemplary town of unity, went through such an apocalypse," concluded Janko Baljak.


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]