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In the wake of Angelina Jolie’s film “In the Land of Blood and Honey”

March 8, 2012

By: Dr. Senadin Lavić

What happened to works of Ivo Andric after his death was a game of unforeseen world events in which a man feels powerless.  Similar fate share the Balkan nations who dream about freedom in blood and war, only to find themselves in a post-war future created by the world powers based on their own interests.  Despite our thinking that we can categorize everything and rationalize it within a standard frame of mind, there still loom some things which escape our ‘objective’ explanations and irreversibly slip out of our reach.  This naïveté of rationalism share historians, political science majors, anthropologists, and traditional philosophers.  In this despair, the European modernism hit a wall that resulted in a nightmare because of its lack of certainty.  A renowned author, Ivo Andric, Bosnian native, could have not ever imagined that he would be used as a tool for the Serbian extremist set on decimating the ‘hated’ Turks as a revenge for some ancient battle from 1389 on their path toward expanding the Greater Serbia and setting the pillars of the [Grand] Serbian myth.  If his literary works are used for reaching political goals that include occupation and war crimes then it is a violent crime against our Nobel laureate.  Proponents of such literary interpretation of Andric’s work are coercing his legacy into becoming part of the Grand Serbian ideology.  His literary prose is treated as a set in stone scientific fact.  In this Grand Serbian fable, Andric is an archetype mace man, a part of the Kosovo myth, a hero who crushes the opponents and is elevated to the Serbian saints’ heaven where Duke Lazar is awaiting him so they can toast with a chalice of red wine.  Of course, from moment to moment, this skewed picture clouds the historical facts.

Politicizing art did not start with Grand Serbian objectification of Andric’s work in which the ‘great interpreters of literature’ found the arguments for their own religious, ethnic and nationalistic projects.  In the Balkans, for a nation to remain timeless, and this includes the notion of the nation, i.e. people or ethnic group that is trying to carve its own piece of the territory, as timeless and ever present or, as Maria Todorova would say, the approach to identifying nation as something organic and lasting since ancient times – it is necessary to sacrifice, kill, wage war, wage so-called holy wars and engage in acts of vengeance to be able to transcend from this mortal world into the Kingdom of Truth that lies beyond.  Thus, nationalism is a form of religious consciousness.  Nationalism, on the other hand, as ‘God of Modernism’ in the Balkan hall-in-the-wall, abuses without exceptions, everything that falls into its hands.  It reminds of a bum who stumbles into a real life play and in an arrogant and irresponsible way causes general dismay.  Nowhere else is that spirit of nationalistic exclusion, it seems, as merciless and barbaric as it is here.  Andric becomes its collateral damage!  He never suspected that one day he will be dragged into the mud of the Balkan village personifying the Grand Serbian idea as the most gruesome manifestation of a cultural identity loss.

Social and cultural-historical context of a crime against Bosniaks from the 90’s must include the core elements of the nation aggressor and the nation victim (defender) (according to Esad Cimic).  Within the Serbian nation, it is clear where the domination of religion over culture will inadvertently lead.  Jacob Burckhardt addresses this issue from the philosophical standpoint in his work Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen (Observations in the World History). He states that any religion, if left unchecked, would force the state and the culture to serve it wholly and unconditionally.  As Cimic observes in his book Iskusenja zajednistva (Temptations of Collectiveness) when it comes to Grand Serbian barbarism and Holly Serbian faith, one can discuss the condensed content that has morphed into “a primitive mentality and crumbled itself into a religious form that is totally subjugated to Holly Serbian faith.”  On this premise, the Orthodox faith had in the Serbian nation transformed into Holly Serbian faith, and it has become an unarticulated and rigid ideology that has lost its religious tenant such as love for God.  Hate and longing for revenge have replaced love.  According to Cimic, among those individuals who have succumbed to Holly Serbian faith and tradition, a yearning is festering, a yearning “to expand through murder, conquests, destruction and rape.”  Grand Serbian ideology champions never wanted to understand the reasons why one of the old Europeans nations, Bosniaks, could embrace Islam and remain faithful to their religion.  The act itself was considered treason by the Grand Serb demagogues and started the seed of the eternal hate, Njegos-like hate in which “the earth reeks of Muhammad.” Here starts the great evil and the identification of the enemy.  This enemy is identified as Muslims or Bosniaks.  Complaint against them is that as one of Slavic peoples, they betrayed the “faith of their forefathers.”  Hasan, one of the characters in Mehmed Mesa Selimovic’s book Dervis i smrt (The Dervish and Death), says that Muslims/Bosniaks are the most complicated people, that they are stuck half-way through, baffled, not able to go anywhere, detached, embarrassed about their heritage and feeling guilty about their betrayal, that they refuse to look back and have no place to move forward to.  This is a literary expose of a nation confronted with their enemy’s hostile ideology that tried to “nationalize” them as peoples during the 20th century.  Selimovic, actually, is trying to artistically depict that unsettling feeling, that horrible experience of Muslims/Bosniaks carrying the fear of threatened existence facing preannounced crimes.  Grand Serbian depiction of the Turks/Muslims in general, and Serbian focus on the Kosovo myth have become the biggest stumbling block and hurdle to normal life on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia.  However, Albanians have their Kosovo myth as well.  Ana di Lelio talks about it in her book Kosovska bitka u albanskom mitu (Kosovo battle in the Albanian myth).  Kosovo myth is a pretext of action and nothing else has etched its influence into people like this one myth.  In Angelina Jolie’s movie U zemlji krvi i meda (In the Land of blood and honey) the role of the protector of this Kosovo myth is carried out by general Vuckovic (actor Rade Sherbegia).  Just within ten or so movie lines, the whole premise of the Kosovo myth folds like a house of cards.  This fall happens in front of his eyes.  It becomes crime – Kosovo myth is a doctored image.  Grand Serbian “heroic campaign” started as a war against civilians who are killed in a gruesome ways or banished from their homes, rounded up in concentration camps and dehumanized.  The whole Holly Serbian – Kosovo myth is confined to damnation of its own dehumanization and dehumanization of others – Bosnians/Bosniaks, Muslims – its core existence is summarized in revenge against someone who personifies the Time of the Turks in Grand Serbian sub consciousness.

Grand Serbian focus on ethnicity comes from an internal feeling of being irrelevant and neglected, i.e. from the grand ethos about the “national question” that the Serbian nation has not resolved yet in an appropriate way.  And how should the question be resolved?  In a simple way: kill, slaughter, and engage in ethnic cleansing of those areas and those people who happen to be within the imposed and pre-drawn borders of “Grand Serbian territories.”  Angelina Jolie demonstrates that she started her cinematographic work well prepared.  Her movie story is a reflection of her very careful study of these territories.  The film industry demands professionalism, even though we might look from the side lines and think it’s an easy and funny game.  What makes the Serbian groups from the Balkans furious about her work is the truth, the accuracy of her story, i.e. the fact that Jolie knows what she’s talking about, that she knows what happened in Bosnia: who was the rapist and for what reasons.  This is the reason for the Grand Serbian revolt.  Jolie managed to avoid transforming the story of Bosnia into Hollywood commercialism.  One cannot claim that this story is not important tale about crime and hope.  Barbarians depicted in this film are disturbed by it – this movie is an art piece, a narrative about a gruesome manifestation of rape as a part of a Grand Serbian scheme and war strategy.  A part of the project to annihilate Bosniaks and to destroy the Bosnian state.

Many rape victims found strength and spoke up about this terrible crime of rape.  We must not forget about Karaman house in Miljevina and dozens of other places where women were abused in Bosnian towns of Foca, Visegrad, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Sarajevo…  The character in movie Grbavica Jasmila Zbanic, played skillfully by Mirjana Karanovic, opened the discussion about this aching Bosnian wound and put it in the open on the movie screen.  And then entered famous Angelina Jolie as a director and screen play writer, and she showed that she understood the center of the Bosnian tragedy – women were raped by their first door neighbors, individuals they knew, individuals who till just few days ago lived with them in the same city, village, on the same street, in the same building.  These familiar individuals started to kill, pillage and rape in the name of a nation and the notion of Greater Serbia.  These neighbors became war criminals.  An example to illustrate this is the case of the teacher Marko Samardzija who in July of 1992 killed his own students in a school in Biljani near Sanski Most.  The henchman knew his victims.  It is a gruesome revelation that takes our breath away.  These legionnaires of evil have demonstrated how easy it is for them to turn into a monster, a killer, a rapist, a bully, a criminal, without being able to conceal the pathetic coward deep down inside.

Angelina Jolie reveals the shortcomings of a culture that represents the danger and evil for others in its pursuit of the Grand Serbian ideology and for this reason this culture must be dealt with in an appropriate and serious manner.  Grand Serbian culture has become a machinery for killing of others and those who are different.  Here, we spot the intentions of Radomir Konstantinovic’s criticism of “Palanacka consciousness.”  Before we even start talking about this “Palanacka arrogance” that is stuck between the tribal and civilized, we have to bring into play the thread of Kant’s critique of the cognition (“pure reason”) and Cassirer’s change of this into a critique of a culture with distinct forms of spirit through which a man as animal symbolicum reconstructs and reinterprets the world and the sense of it.  Angelina Jolie, following her own symbolism, believes that love and justice should reign the world.  This is the message that she wants to resonate in today’s murky waters of our superficial culture of forgetfulness.  This movie can help the traumatized Bosniak being heal its wounds in its post-genocidal existence.  In an instance, this movie unfroze the Bosnian mind and dispelled the informational blockade about war crime perpetrators and genocide in Bosnia carried out by the Grand Serbian advocates and Serbia right in front of the USA, UN, and EU.  The truth about Bosnia has been concealed since 1995, since the Dayton Peace Accord that gave the aggressor everything that was conquered militarily.   Richard Holbrooke admitted that he made a mistake allowing for the name of RS and allowing the existing internal administrative set up of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  This movie must be taken seriously because it draws attention to a huge Bosnian plight and human tragedy.  The palette of the interpretations has to be wide: from vocational-specialized to philosophical-esthetic approach.  These do not have to “be congruent” along any political or ethno-organic lines.  The human trauma must not be misused and taken advantage of especially not by the Bosniaks.  This would equal to the closing of the Bosnian mind, i.e. to the reduction of the dialogue to the political or clerical narrative that prescribes “the possibility of awareness and its limitations.”  The Bosnian tragedy is a universal one, a tragedy of the modern human society.

What did Angelina Jolie do?  She spoke about the horrific drama of rape victims, about the most aching wound of a human being: the possibility of being desecrated and destroyed.  The damaged sanctity of a human being, a raped Bosnian woman, disturbs the idyllic horizon of the modern society, regardless what UN, Europe, and great modern powers were waiting for while the Serbian army was trying to “finish the job” in the tranquility of the Balkan hills.  All of them knew what was going on and that makes them responsible.  All of the political characters such as Boutrous B. Ghali, Yasushi Akashi, Philippe Morillone, Cyrus Vance, David Owen and dozens of others.  Rape victims, the end chapter of the Bosnian genocide in Srebrenica, negation of crimes, negation of the Bosnian nationhood, the destruction attempts aimed at the Bosnian state or child killing during Sarajevo siege, all of these are testimonials about the moral decay of our modern human society.  Grand Serbian barbarism could had been stopped in just a few days – that is clear today – just look at Kosovo in 1999.  The sense of betrayal brings forward feelings of disgust.  The hardest thing is to preserve the human way of thinking about the situation that we are in.  It is clear now why Bosniaks feel betrayed by the international community that was supposed to protect them, and instead it prevented Bosniaks from being able to defend themselves by enforcing an arms embargo against them.  Someone sentenced Bosniaks to death!  This is the terrible realization that Bosniaks carry on their shoulders today.

The logical absolutism is disavowed in its pathological state, the notion about order or the scientific necessity to classify extraordinary (acts) in a universal class or in its order.  It seems it’s not enough to examine these terrible societal events, such as rape of women and murder of people in concentration camps, in a scientific way, and state one’s opinion and explanation of those.  Reducing genocide to mere statistics desecrates its victims in a new way.  We know that a plight of a Bosnian woman is indeed plight of a woman or universal suffering of any woman.  New “methods” of spirit are emerging or new human creativity is enabling us to not depict the world, but instead construct meanings in this new world.  Philosophical-esthetic dimension of the movie does not allow the mind to remain at its sublevel in the ashes of the previous existence of denial.  The movie does not represent a clear reality; instead it forms an art piece with symbolic capacity that we as human beings are understanding and interpreting.  Movie is an art contraption of a world in which we recognize meanings – the movie’s intent is not to prove crime. Thus, the movie is not a tribunal or a judicial institution, it is instead an artistic craft par excellence.

Ethnocentrism and Grand Serbian disease have metastasized and we all are living in hell here in Bosnia.  Bosniaks do not have justice and the rule of law, and Grand Serbian monster does not have liability and any sense of responsibility for crimes committed.  This cannot lead to any good.  For no one!  Angelina Jolie understands this.  She had the courage to talk about it though.  So, in this way, Bosnia is again the talk of the global media, through the world of film and art, in connection with the terrible crime committed by the Serbian forces who systematically raped Bosnian women.  For this reason, Jolie’s movie is being dragged through the dark hallways of the Grand Serbian ideology fortress that keeps the Balkan horrified imprisoned.  The Serb extremists misrepresent the movie by saying it condemns the whole nation.  The movie however, talks about a particular “method” of degradation of human beings within the scope of a bellicose project that was supported by the intellectuals, clergy, politicians, and common people: elite, demagogues, organizers and executors.

Grand Serbian monster had a plan to destroy Bosnia and Bosniaks.  It started with armed aggression and crimes, and it continues with tries to quell any talk about destruction efforts, crimes of genocide and reasons for it; there is an effort to conceal the main ideology creators, commanders and killers, and to change historical facts.  So, when the truth fades and justice is not served, a new crimes is created.  The whole perversion is complete when all those are taken into consideration who in Bosnia and abroad have tried to stop Angelina Jolie from making a movie about Bosnian woman’s fate, a person who is humiliated by aggressor’s soldiers.  Using deceit this opposing force concealed its low motives and denied any possibility of understanding, so we did not know why they opposed this film or what they even knew about it, without knowing what was going on behind the scenes and on the set itself.  The movie crew though went to Hungary and made the movie using some of the Bosnian cast.

In the end, Angelina Jolie’s movie In the Land of Blood and Honey must be protected from the superficial journalistic analysis infused by the clerical and political influence that suffocates communication and the open mind.

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O autoru:

Prof. Dr. Senadin Lavić is the president of the Bosnian Cultural Association “Renaissance” in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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