“This is a class of people who look upon ordinary people as savages”

“This is a class of people who look upon ordinary people as savages”
“This is a class of people who look upon ordinary people as savages”

In his latest documentary film Sarajevo Safari, director Miran Zupanič sheds light on the phenomenon of hunting civilians that took place during the war in the Balkans

Excerpt from the film Sarajevo Safari
© YouTube / Sarajevo safari

In his latest documentary, Sarajevo Safari, director Miran Zupanič sheds light on the phenomenon of hunting civilians that took place during the war in the Balkans. In an interview for STA, he talked about how such evil changed his perception of the world, who the people who went on safari are, and what happens to the world in war.

Until now, very few people knew about the fact that during the siege of Sarajevo, foreigners came there in a very well organized manner, Americans, Canadians, Russians and Italians were mentioned, and shot people for high sums. There may have been whispers about the safari, but this, as Zupanič told STA, is too little and especially not credible for a documentary film. Arsmedia producer Franci Zajc spent several years looking for people who would talk about it firsthand. In the end, he found them and Zupanič made a film that not only stirred up public opinion, but also politicians began to make moves.

While the mayor of Sarajevo, Benjamina Karić, has already filed criminal charges against “unknown persons who sowed death in Sarajevo and their assistants”, the mayor of eastern Sarajevo, which falls under the Republika Srpska, Ljubiša Ćosić, has announced that he will file criminal charges against Zupanič. “By education, I am also a lawyer,” adds the director, who was well aware of all the pitfalls during the making of the film, because of which “I could end up in court for the rest of my life”. At the same time, he adds that he has done his job with the film, now it can be others’ turn.

In the film, Zupanič interweaves the narration of five people with shocking documentary footage from the Arsmedia archive, especially of everyday life in Sarajevo, when the scenes say more than any agency footage from that time. “The film follows the basic structure that each of these five interlocutors opens up their own level. The two witnesses who had contact with the snipers are observers, they speak the facts, they share their thoughts, but they do not go into the depths, where the parents of the killed child and especially Faruk lead us , which simply articulates the levels that, if they were not in the film, would have greatly impoverished this documentary.”

In the film, Faruk Šabanović, a student at the time, tells about a wonderful day, a perfect beauty, a sunset, the most beautiful day of his life, which is combined with the greatest tragedy when he becomes the victim of a sniper.

“Faruk goes to a poetic, philosophical level, in the sense of love for truth and love for beauty, which he especially highlights. Faruk, in my opinion, most accurately articulates this Bosnian soul and dimensions that others were not able to. He tried to oppose himself with beauty threatens the world – almost losing life, health and being permanently disabled,” Zupanič said. In the film, Šabanović emphasizes that, despite everything, he never wanted to understand the sniper, because this can open the field of empathy.

One of the key questions raised by the film is who are the people who pay for the organized human safari and, as a witness in the film says, are willing to pay more than the otherwise high amount to shoot a child. Witnesses tell how the sniper-tourists from Pal were brought to the sniper point. Someone next to them was tracking the targets with binoculars and readying a weapon for them. A witness in the film, who was a member of such an expedition several times, assessed that they were good shooters. “It’s an extension of something that a man already has, he’s tired of everything. Why not shoot another child or an adult,” he says in the film.

“If we say a psychopath, it is an individual, a kind of offspring of humanity, and in this case there is a wider power structure behind it. Anyone cannot be in a position to shoot people. There must be an organization behind it, a whole structure to arrange it. It is a layer of people, which looks upon ordinary people as savages. And yet – it is an extreme situation, to kill a man, but think how this class acts when it makes its business decisions or when it may suggest political decisions?”

The simplest thing would be to call these people psychopaths, but in Zupanič’s opinion, they would be wrong. “If we say a psychopath, it is an individual, a kind of offspring of humanity, and in this case there is a wider power structure behind it. Anyone cannot be in a position to shoot people. There must be an organization behind it, a whole structure to arrange it. It is a layer of people, which looks upon ordinary people as savages. And yet – it is an extreme situation, to kill a man, but think how this class acts when it makes its business decisions or when it may suggest political decisions?”

Zupanič agrees, when a person gets to know and delve deeper into such evil, his view of the world changes. “It’s a shock when you hear something like this, when you get confirmations from people you believe. When you know that it’s not fiction, fake, manipulation. When you allow the information to come close to you, it changes your perception of the world. It’s from my world of values this is unimaginable. I felt the need, the commitment to make a film about it, to convey it to the public. Now there are also many negative reactions to the film, but I wouldn’t change anything, except for some detail,” said Zupanič.

In the film, a man, a Slovene, who was in Sarajevo thirty-five times during the war, for about 14 days each time, speaks as the main witness. His employer, an American agency, wanted data from the field, how people live, what they think, how they view the United States? The witness, whose face is only shaded in the film, says that the Serbs, whom he knew from before, also invited him on a safari. Why they did it, because they knew, despite the journalist’s accreditation, who he works for is not clear, they obviously had their own interest. The witness cannot say what the reactions were on the American side, but it is clear that the services were aware of the safari. A former Bosnian intelligence officer also reports on this in detail in the film.

It is the two of them who operate with the data in the film. The couple, whose one-year-old daughter was killed by a sniper, and Šabanović never claim that the snipers from the safari were on the other side. “Without suggesting, even though I know that suggesting is also the way you edit the film, I wanted to leave the final judgment to the viewer. This is too big a subject to allow myself to be manipulated in any way. I kept my distance very much. This is also why the film is more or less shot in static frames – all testimonies, this is factography. The film is strict with the viewer, as it focuses him on the narrative, on reliving what is said, and now – take it or leave it.”

“This is a war in 75 minutes. We need awareness in order to know how to protect peace, quality interpersonal relations in which we are all different, but we know how to manage this difference. Because if we can’t do this, we end up in such extreme situations as this one , when people are willing to pay to kill.”

But how does the director see the witness who was on safari and watched all this? “He is semi-anonymous. His face is hidden, and his speech is undistorted. Those who know him will of course recognize him. I perceive him as a man who simply carries a lot of different experiences in the underground of his memory. This was one of many, for which one he says was the most extreme and was too much even for him. For someone who is a professional, who is educated. If he didn’t feel that limit, then he wouldn’t have appeared and spoken in the film, because he would have been on the other side, ” said the director.

At the recent premiere in Sarajevo, 1,000 people saw the film. “A resident of Sarajevo watches and experiences the film through the prism of his own experience, his own pain, trauma and also his own knowledge. Two films are taking place in it. The film he is watching and an intimate, internal film,” warned the interlocutor, who, however, had no matter who the viewer is, a single purpose.

“This is a war in 75 minutes. We need awareness in order to know how to protect peace, quality interpersonal relations in which we are all different, but we know how to manage this difference. Because if we can’t do this, we end up in such extreme situations as this one , when people are willing to pay to kill,” said the director.

The film, which is expected to be screened in cinemas of the Slovenian Art cinema network in November, is “an insight into a world in disintegration”. “The film is proof of where violence leads, to complete chaos and the triumph of evil, this is a fact, no matter how pathetic it sounds. This is the breakdown of order. And when this happens, monsters rise from people,” Zupanič concluded.

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The article is in Slovenian

Tags: class people ordinary people savages

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