DEALING WITH THE PAST sets out to do precisely what its name suggests. We consider that in order to deal with the many and unresolved issues that date back to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia – the impact of which is still widely felt today – a sincere, clear-eyed discussion around that painful past is of utmost importance. Numerous initiatives have been put into place in the region over the last twenty years, under the rubric of 'peacebuilding'. Slogans, however, do not heal the wounds inflicted on the psyches of individuals subjected to years of wartime suffering. By natural consequence, whole communities bear the lion’s share of such pain, and are in desperate need of a comprehensive healing process. For us, the inevitable start to such a process is to confront all those who are involved and affected with sobering facts. Our unwavering belief in this approach, always keeping in mind the need to look at historical events from multiple perspectives, is the foundation block of the DEALING WITH THE PAST project.
In practical terms, we intend to start dialogue on the subject through curated screenings, as well as through the systematic collection of stories, documents and memories that will unveil many aspects of the past from different vantage points – whether imbued primarily with pain or riddled with nostalgia. It is from this open source that filmmakers and cinema experts will draw inspiration, and from which they will weave stories for larger audiences with all the urgency and power that cinema offers. With this in mind, we believe that Dealing with the Past can lead to cinema that achieves its ultimate, perhaps noblest aim – cinema that opens a door to genuine empathy, to peacebuilding in its truest sense.
We anticipate that by involving filmmakers and cinema experts we will encourage greater support for our greater ambition, which is to gain wider access to target audiences in the former Yugoslav countries. This outreach is enabled by co-operation with youth initiatives, local and regional non-governmental organisations, and media representatives.
Quite simply, we feel the need to provoke dialogue among all generations and all communities in the region, and to empower younger generations never to stop asking questions and looking for answers; the need to listen to and face personal accounts from all sides with open hearts and minds. Film is the ideal medium for this: it can travel far and widen and has the ability to stir up thoughts and inspire dialogue throughout the Balkans and beyond. And it is with cinema that we want to sow the seeds of a long-awaited healing process, a reconciliation that was never truly realised.
This is the first fact we dare to face: grieving – in all its necessary stages -– has never been fully allowed to fully take its natural course in the region. There are many reasons for this, and we cannot and do not pretend to offer a remedy for this failure. We can, however, declare our full and steadfast commitment to breaking the seal of silence that has veiled some of our most confused, yet most devastating experiences.
DEALING WITH THE PAST, a project of the Sarajevo Film Festival, is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and presented in partnership with Al Jazeera Balkans. This year, the ongoing project intersects with The Competition Programme – Documentary Film and CineLink Industry Days – True Stories Market.
Sarajevo Film Festival Director
With the support of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)