PROJECT PRIDE: BOSNIAN LGBT SHORT FILM SELECTION PUTS THE LGBTIQ SCENE IN BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
Four documentaries, each of them unique in style and technique, were screened at De Uitkijk cinema on July 31 as part of a collaboration between Bosnian cinema Kriterion Sarajevo and the Young Urban Achievers Foundation. Queer Sarajevo Festival (2008), Queer React (2015), I know what you are but what am I (2016) and Neizgovoreno (Unspoken) (2016) took the viewers right into the controversy-ridden journey that life represents for any LGBTIQ individual in the conservative climate of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The first two films, Queer Sarajevo Festival and Queer React, laid bare the social fabric of Bosnia and an emotionally charged battle for recognition of LGBTIQ minorities. Tension and violent confrontations that unraveled during the Queer Sarajevo Festival in 2008 brought it to a halt which is poignantly illustrated in Queer Sarajevo Festival. On a more uplifting note, the film also introduced the unwavering commitment and unassailable hope of LGBTIQ organizations and activists to champion tolerance and inclusivity, despite bitter skirmishes and lack of protection from the state. Queer React showed the evolution of the state’s relationship with sexual minority groups since the festival in 2008 and introduced changes in the Bosnian legislation (such as the law against discrimination) that were the result of public mobilization and campaigning.
Two additional films, I know what you are but what am I and Neizgovoreno (Unspoken) presented intimate portrayals of individual lives, mapped out through art and personal relationships. I know what you are but what am I was narrated through the lens of Chris, a young transgender person who expresses life’s puzzles and realities through art. Neizgovoreno (Unspoken) was constructed from relationships of several Bosnian gays, bisexuals and lesbians with their parents. In the light of occasional unease and misunderstandings, one story stood out: a snapshot into the life of young Nera whose mother fully embraced her daughter’s sexuality exuded hope and earnest love.
Kriterion Sarajevo is a Balkan extension of the Amsterdam based Kriterion projects and just like its Dutch counterpart is entirely run by students. The project in Sarajevo was launched in 2011 after the reconstruction of an old cinema destroyed in the war. In this process, students were collaborating with Young Urban Achievers, an Amsterdam foundation supporting young people with setting up cultural initiatives all over the world. In addition to its cultural mission, Kriterion Sarajevo has also become a beacon of hope for the LGBTIQ community. Being one of merely a handful of venues that identify as “LGBT-friendly”, it works in close collaboration with LGBTIQ organizations on awareness-raising campaigns. In post-screening Q&A Vanja Lazic, director of Kriterion Sarajevo and Danilo Jovanovic, Bosnian filmmaker and former LGBT activist, reflected on the continuing journey to tolerance towards LGBTIQ community in Bosnia. Despite anti-discrimination laws being an integral part of the Bosnian legal code, any attacks against LGBTIQ individuals are interpreted as disruptions of public order rather than hate crimes, and victims’ disenfranchisement bars them from reporting such incidents. Lazic and Jovanovic recognised the hardships of leading a decent life as a sexual minority in Bosnia which justifies the ongoing exodus to Western Europe and the US. But both guests were looking on the bright side despite the mounting doom and gloom, concluding that only by taking small steps in raising awareness and parading visibility, a big shift in public consciousness might be catalyzed.