The Bosnia nightmare

The powerful French documentary Bosna! gives a terrifying, but realistic account of what happened in Bosnia and calls for Western intervention. Report by TERRI KO WATCHING human bodies in Sarajevo blasted into pieces by snipers in the shockingly realistic French documentary Bosna! was a horrifying experience.

The film was recently shown to a full house at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, revealing an interest among many to find out the truth beyond five-minute news strips.

Bosna! is a two-hour documentary on what has transpired since Serbia mobilised against Bosnia, a republic demanding independence within the former Yugoslavia.

The aim of the two directors, Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Ferrari, is not merely to expose the terror of the so-called 'ethnic cleansing'.

They passionately argue that the powerful West, by not intervening, has shirked its humanistic responsibility to save Bosnia from a weak enemy.

French President Francois Mitterand visited Sarajevo and was briefed of its desperate situation, but he returned to France and said nothing.


Cynical Europe would not intervene either.

When a US reporter took back pictures of a concentration camp (supposedly worse than those of the Nazis) filled with starving men, the then US President George Bush failed to call for the shutdown of the camp.

He only asked that the International Red Cross be given access to it.

Emotionally-charged, the film demands an answer from Western powers for their failure to act.


Listen to the description of a camp survivor: 'Sixty of us were locked up in a room with no air and water. Our [daily ration] was three spoonfuls of soup and a slice of bread. For four days, we drank our urine.' Ugly accounts like this, however, are morally less revolting when compared with a captured Serbian soldier's graphic confession and demonstration of how he slit hundreds of throats and raped and killed a young girl in front of her parents.

Stark images of young boys mutilated, cut-off heads and bloody remnants of body parts have not been spared by the camera.


The film-makers pay tribute to some brave souls who maintained their dignity even at the worst of the crisis.

A woman intellectual, Lenada, never gives up putting on her make-up. 'It's my way of saying 'I'm not a victim',' she said.

But there are also those who have lost morale. A morgue worker who kept a record of dead bodies finally lost interest in the job when 'I had to write down the name of my son'.


Although the documentary ends in a guarded optimistic note, Levy has expressed pessimism because the conflict has since gotten worse.

'If we don't succeed in getting the message through for intervention, Bosnia cannot possibly remain the same [as] a marvellously sane place with its cosmopolitan culture,' Levy told one reporter.

But while he announces in the film, 'Europe died at Sarajevo', the director stands by his belief that 'there will always be a remnant of Bosnia . . . and it is that which we will have to keep fighting for.'