A documentary film starring six youths from the region shows the power of understanding and tolerance.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 22/10/13
"The Majority Starts Here" was produced by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
Vanja Lazic was 3 and living in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), when the armed conflicts broke out in the 1990s.
"Because of that, I don't think that I have war trauma in the original sense because I didn't know that war was something dreadful. That cognition has come later," Lazic told SETimes.
Now 25, Lazic is the executive director at Kriterion, a Sarajevo-based foundation for cultural development. She said that as important as it is to be aware of the past, it is more important for the region to build a joint future.
Lazic, along with five other young people from Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia, was highlighted in the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network documentary movie "The Majority Starts Here."
In the film, the six youths tour the region, including places where conflicts were most severe. During the journey, they talk to each other, citizens of the places they visit and with war refugees and military veterans to try to understand the past.
"The first idea was to have journalists as characters, but we realised that could be too politicised. So we decided to have a cast of young people who do not remember the conflicts in order to show how people are shaped by these things," Gordana Igric, BIRN director, told SETimes.
The idea was to provide people from the region with something that could help them face the future, Igric said. One of the movie's aims was achieved by filming conversations between the youths, as well as with various others, including those with radical principles.
"Even though they don't find solutions, they do talk, and that tolerance is one of the values achieved during the last 20 years," Igric said.
Simona Milanovic, a 22-year-old Belgrade student at the Faculty of Organisation Sciences who participated in the film, agreed.
"I feared that the rest of the team would not accept me because I'm from Serbia. But very soon I realised that it was totally unjustified. Among those of us who participated in the film, but also with people with whom we talked, there were not any conflict or arguing. We built a perfect communication and friendship and very quietly listened and discussed with other people, regardless of our principles and opinions," Simona told SETimes.
Lazic said this kind of communication is a must for the future of the region.
"It is necessary to put the accent on people, individuals, not on the collective awareness and responsibility. It is necessary to overcome initial prejudice and be open to dialogue with people who do not think in same way," she said.
Milanovic said co-operation between countries is a necessity.
"Cultural, linguistic, historical and financial interdependence and connectedness of countries in the region simply dictates such conditions, and it is up to us to find the best solutions," she said.
Zvonimir Zvonar, 25, another of the six youths in the film, spent part of the war in Osjek before his father decided to send him, his sister, mother and grandmother to Austria.
"The film motivated me to start European studies, because I see our future in Europe. I want to be dedicated to foreign affairs of Croatia and the EU. I want to work on the improvement of relations between the EU and the Western Balkans because the near future is bringing to all of the countries a new unity, where all of us will be united and be Europeans and there would not be place for national and ethnic hate," Zvonar said.
The film premiered in Skopje on September 25th and has been shown in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Pristina, Zagreb and Novi Sad.
Ana Mihajlovic, 36, a housewife in Novi Sad, told SETimes that the movie inspired her to think more deeply about the concept of "majority" and who wanted wars and supported the ideas of Slobodan Milosevic.
"I'm pretty sure that it was not a majority. I didn't want that, my friends, family, relatives, neighbours did not want it. It was a very loud minority. While they were going to the battlefields with Milosevic, we stayed here and protested against the war and suffered. Unfortunately, we didn't have media to show our struggle. If we did, it would have been clear who the majority here was even if it was silent," Mihajlovic said.
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