The Bosnian film ‘Quo Vadis Aida’, about the fall of Srebrenica, has a chance to win the Oscar for best foreign film tonight. The film was directed by the Bosnian Jasmila Zbanic, and was created as a co-production with seven European countries, including the Netherlands. The film shows the crucial days in July 1995 through the eyes of the Bosnian interpreter Aida. She has to interpret for the Dutch UN peacekeeping force Dutchbat, but at the same time tries to protect her husband and two sons.
The fall of Srebrenica is one of the blackest pages in recent history. The ‘safe’ UN enclave Srebrenica falls into the hands of Bosnian Serbs in July 1995, and twenty thousand Bosnian Muslims seek protection in the Dutch UN compound of Dutchbat. The Dutch military cannot prevent more than eight thousand of them, men and boys, from being murdered by the Serbs. It is seen as the worst act of genocide in Europe after World War II.
Many Dutchbatters are not happy with the film because a number of fictional elements have been added to it. Dion van den Berg, of peace organisation PAX, has been involved since 1995 and mediates between Dutchbatters and survivors. He also sees that some things in the film have not really happened, but finds it “an impressive and important film”. “It is at the heart of what this film shows: the evil face of war, the despair and powerlessness of the Dutch military. And the Dutchbatters also see that this is an important film for the survivors and relatives.”
The leading role of the Bosnian interpreter Aida is played by Serbian actress Jasna Djuricic. Despite the controversy that arose in Serbia, the actress did not hesitate for a moment. “We as artists started working together immediately after the war and because the scenario was perfect, I had no doubts.”
The actress finds it difficult to talk about her role “precisely because of the fact that for this role I gave everything out of myself. In the film you can clearly see my admiration and respect for Aida, but also for all the mothers and women who have experienced this. Because I‘m just an actress who, thank God, has not experienced it.”
One of the other leading roles is that of the then Dutchbat commander Thom Karremans. He is played by the Fleming Johan Heldenbergh. “I wanted to do that right away, but my first question was why no Dutch actor. It turned out to be difficult, because there were a few who did not like it. I understand that, because as an actor, your primary task is to defend a character. For the Dutch, this is more difficult because of the history, the scar.”
According to Heldenbergh, the distance he had as a Fleming was good. “So I could only be concerned with the role, what drove that man, what his strengths and weaknesses were. Because make no mistake, Karremans is the devil in Bosnia. People knew that the film was being shot, and when I walked on the street with that mustache, I felt that enmity.”
Reconciliation and forgiveness
The film receives praise criticisms from the international film, despite being sensitive in Bosnia, Serbia, and the Netherlands. According to protagonist Djuricic, the film can still connect the different groups. “It is very important that someone has finally gathered the courage to tell this story. Director Jasmila Zbanic does this wisely because she tells a story about human suffering and that is something that brings everyone together and everyone understands. In addition, she looks at the war with a feminine look. It also gives hope, because the film offers the opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness in this region.”
Actor Heldenbergh: “You can’t tell such a story without stepping on toes, no matter how correctly you try to do it. If the director had only defended the Bosnian side, she would be worshiped in her own country. But now the Serbs react negatively, the Bosnians react negatively and Dutchbat responds negatively. Then I think, then it can only be that we have told the truth.”
Tonight at 2:00 a.m. Dutch time the Oscar ceremony can be followed live via FOX. And if the coronare rules allow, the film can be seen in the cinema from June 17th.