'Oscar for Bosnia'
by Mile Stojic
The most typically Sarajevan reaction to the news of Danis Tanovic’s triumph in Los Angeles is probably that of the director’s father: ‘Justice has triumphed!’ Bosniaks experience this artistic success of one of their own also as a kind of twofold symbolic satisfaction. The film’s unprecedented success has been like balm for all the wounds and humiliations they have suffered in the past decade, while at the same time it dispels the cinematic charisma of a fellow-citizen who, during the aggression against Bosnia, bowed and scraped before the country’s bloodiest assassin. ‘Kusturica is dead - long live Tanovic!’ was the comment of one prominent Sarajevo weekly. For the chimaera of Kusturica - who during the war disseminated the deadliest Serbian propaganda against the city in which he was born and which precisely Karadzic’s Serbs were systematically destroying and murdering - had been hanging over Sarajevo like a dark cloud.
We don’t actually know what Emir Kusturica thinks about Tanovic’s film, but the Serbian media which glorify Kusturica have mainly ignored it. Or labelled it ‘anti-Serb’. A few days prior to the Academy Awards ceremony, the Belgrade daily Nacional concluded in a text entitled ‘Anti-Serb fabrication - candidate for Oscar’ that Tanovic ‘castigated the Serbs’, and that the documentary footage of the Markale market massacre ‘refers to Serb responsibility for the outrage, although it was proved beyond question long ago that the Serbs had nothing to do with it.’
As for Croatian papers, most have spoken about the film sulkily but without being able to ignore it altogether. Apart from anything else, because two young Croatian actors play leading roles. When the film won the Golden Palm at Cannes, there were occasional comments about it having a ‘good screenplay’, but with brilliant Croatian actors in a Slovene-Belgian-French co-production, while the name of Danis Tanovic was mentioned very sheepishly or not at all. The news of the film’s success in Cannes was reported on the front page of the Zagreb daily Jutarnji list as though the award had been given to the Croatian actors rather than to the film’s director and screen-writer. With Zagreb’s obtuse, petty-bourgeois mentality, and its fantasies about a ‘Croatdom’ belonging exclusively to ‘Europe’ and having absolutely nothing to do with ‘the Balkans’, it is very hard (as even Krleza realized) to face up to the fact, for instance, that almost all that is most vital in its culture derives precisely from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Zagreb’s ‘world-class’ weekly Nacional, in the same vein, published an article headlined ‘Oscar triumph for producer from Rijeka’, implying to its readers that the Oscar for best foreign-language film had been awarded to the film’s producer rather than to its author. It is hard indeed, for people to whom Tudjman used to explain how the Croats were supposed to civilize the Moslems of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to imagine and accept that exactly the opposite is happening: that a Bosniak is today symbolically introducing the Croats to world civilization and culture.
Extracts translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 30 March 2002
‘No Man’s Land is obviously not a Croatian film, but pre-eminently a Bosnian one, because of Danis Tanovic, his screenplay and his direction, and because of its Bosnian theme, birthplace and language.’
Rene Bitorajac, Croatian actor who plays one of the main roles in Tanovic’s film (that of a Bosnian Serb soldier), interviewed in Feral Tribune (Split), 30 March 2002 .