Dealing with the Past

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.

Mirsad Purivatra
Sarajevo Film Festival Director

Robert Bosch Stiftung

The greatest societal challenges in conflict and post-conflict societies include the documentation of war crimes and truth finding, dealing with human rights violations, and the establishment of a dialog about the past. We believe that dealing with past or present violence in a fact-based and constructive manner is an important component in preventing the rekindling of old and the formation of new conflicts.

The program ‘Dealing with the Past’ at Sarajevo Film Festival initiates dialogue among all communities and countries in the region. It contributes to an increased understanding of the history and shared narratives across political divides, as well as to reducing prejudices and increasing tolerance. We consider film as an excellent basis for discussion and a powerful tool for peace building by bringing stories about the past to larger audiences.

In the Western Balkans, there are many dedicated representatives of civil society as well as an increasing number of journalists, whose work focuses on dealing with history, searching for the truth, and developing cultures of remembrance. The project ‘Dealing with the Past’ brings these actors together. The ‘True Stories Market’ gives the opportunity for sharing experiences and for young filmmakers to encounter new material about the past and new ideas on how to bring such stories to the screen.

Founded during the siege of Sarajevo, the Sarajevo Film Festival is one of the most remarkable film festivals and the leading festival in the region. During the period of war and siege in Sarajevo, the Obala Art Centar and the Sarajevo Film Festival led by Mirsad Purivatra were an important source of optimism and hope for the population of the city. The festival in Sarajevo is therefore a unique fit for starting such an initiative. In addition, Mirsad Purivatra was a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy with several working stays in Berlin, where this joint idea was able to grow.

Guided by the legacy of reconciliation set forth by our founder Robert Bosch, the foundation has made particular efforts to foster understanding and reconciliation between Germany and its neighbors France and Poland. By providing support for selected projects in Southeast Europe in the wake of the Balkan wars in the mid-1990s, the Robert Bosch Stiftung became directly engaged in a conflict region. Since 2013, we have supported a wide variety of projects around the world, which seek to foster conflict transformation and the establishment of peace in the respective countries.