Project Background | Choosing Tools
The war in Bosnia is dramatically unfinished.
As a native of Bosnia‐Herzegovina and someone who had to flee the country as a result of armed conflict, I am profoundly interested in the region's affairs and the reconciliation process. This involvement led to an investigative journey to Bosnia in 2006 to conduct research and gather material for a documentary project that addresses the slow and painful process of integration and reconciliation. I was particularly interested in highlighting the dangers of resurgent nationalisms and the rise of revisionist narratives. In the course of my research, the country’s railway system emerged as a fitting metaphor for the strife in the region.
The war that raged in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 was the most deadly conﬂict in Europe since World War II. The initial phase of the war is especially infamous for its brutality and rampant civil rights violations. The readjustment of the military balance between the three ethnic groups in 1995 led to the opening of peace negotiations at a US military base in Dayton, Ohio, and to the signing of the General Peace Agreement on 14 December 1995. This agreement, known as the Dayton Peace Accords, provided the basic structure for the present-day state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to as the Federation), and Republika Srpska (RS). Although it stopped the war, the agreement essentially endorsed the territorialization of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and therefore also the main result of war and ethnic cleansing. Nearly two decades after the war, the country remains sharply divided along ethnic lines. As is the case with numerous other public services and institutions in the country today, the rail transport is divided along ethnic lines; Željeznice Republike Srpske (ŽRS) operates in the RS, while Željeznice Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine (ŽFBH) operates in the Federation. The winding borders intersect with railway tracks at numerous points, making cargo and passenger traffic subject to bureaucratic tariff systems and the politics of segregation. Yet, despite being susceptible to dubious concepts of division, the trains and railway stations remain one of the rare spaces where the country's three constituent peoples, who fought in the nineties, actually bump into one another. I isolated the railway not only as an interesting prism through which many of the country's existing problems can be examined, but also as a catalyst for greater discussions about past, present and future.
Although the project started as a linear film, I became aware of the dangers of oversimplified representation very early in the production process. Researching and finding fitting modes of representation was a challenging task, and I often failed to find adequate solutions. It was absolutely crucial to understand the limitations and take into account the enormous moral and ethical dimensions of this endeavor. The collected data exposed a multitude of intersecting narratives and a great variety of subtexts. Hence, it was the country’s complex negotiation of real, lived, physical space that precipitated the use of virtual space as an alternative domain for political discourses.
I embarked on this journey hoping to promote better understanding of the Bosnian enigma, and to stimulate public discourse that could foster ideas for change. The result was an experiment in opening up a space for discussion, for interplay between memory, history and fiction.
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