A Disturbing And Moving Vukovar Story

Maja Hrgovic,
Novi list, http://www.novilist.hr

Previously unseen Vukovar war footage, Zastava Film and Serbian Military Archive material, Croatian television video footage and amateur shots by an anonymous defender are used in abundance in Vukovar: Final Cut, film by a journalist crew from Croatia and Serbia, headed by Belgrade director Janko Baljak and Osijek journalist Drago Hedl from Feral Tribune. Their film will premiere at the Controversial Zagrebdox festival in the Tuskanac cinema, while the Serbian premiere is scheduled for Sunday at Belgrade FEST.

Two-hour core of the film is made of archive footage and parts of conversations with around eighty interviewees from Serbian and Croatian side who in 1991 directly and indirectly took part in the tragic Vukovar events. Scenes of bombardment, shooting, bodies lying scattered in the road, blood puddles, seas of crosses in Ovcara, devastated buildings and people shaking with tears are counterpointed with images of drunken criminals with big knives in their hands, leaders of the paramilitary bragging about the number of enemies they killed, boys awash with adrenaline at the mere mention of weapons and killing... Result is a disturbing, convincing and highly moving story, devoid of any make up, melodrama or bias.

Two Sides to Every Story

"We wanted the story about Vukovar to be told by people who participated in it – the Vukovar defenders, Serbian volunteers, various political and military brass. We stayed clear of comments. We approached our subject as in journalism or court: we presented both sides. There's two sides to every story," said Drago Hedl after yesterday's press screening in the Tuskanac cinema.

"Combined crew", as director Baljak calls it, worked hard on the film for 15 months.

"I don't know what was harder, gathering the archive footage or finding people to talk about Vukovar in the right way on both sides. In Serbia it was much more difficult finding people willing to talk, especially among the political leaders, because majority of them ended up in the Hague, and those available refused to talk about it," said Baljak.

It is an interesting detail that with two conversations – the one with Tomislav Mercep and Brana Crncevic – Hedl and Baljak switched their expected positions. Namely, Hedl talked with Crncevic in Belgrade, and Baljak with Mercep in Zagreb."

Our assessment was that this way we would get better, more substantial answers to our questions. I think we were not wrong," emphasised Baljak.

Civilizational Appeal

Croats and Serbs will most certainly react to the film in quite a different manner, the authors agreed. There was talk about the film in Zagreb even before it was finished, which is why the Zagrebdox organisers expect a packed house at tomorrow's premiere.

"The Vukovar situation is seen in Croatia as a turning point in the national history and it is not surprising to have so much reaction. On the other hand, people in Serbia today are much less related to the event, they were crushed by daily politics and political events in the meantime... Since Vukovar, they had another war, Kosovo, the NATO bombing, the Montenegro crisis, hyperinflation.. In all of that, people did not have time to devote themselves to the event thoroughly," said Baljak.

"I don't think the film will result in any kind of reconciliation... But I think it has a very important role of sending a civilizational appeal to younger generations – which know about Vukovar only from history books – not to repeat what happened there. If it succeeds, it will be a sign that we did a good, important and noble job with this film," concluded Hedl.


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]