A Disturbing And Moving Vukovar Story
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
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.