The Best Films About Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bethany Currie

Bosnia & Herzegovina is not well known for its cinema, but in fact there are a number of excellent films about the country by Bosnian directors, or by foreign directors that have chosen Bosnia as a location for their movie. Since the civil war in the 1990s much of the focus for films has been on that conflict, but there are a few that focus on different aspects of Bosnia’s history and culture. Here’s our pick of the best films about Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sarajevo

The Whistleblower (2010)

One of the most famous films about Bosnia is The Whistleblower, which stars a number of actors familiar to western audiences, including Rachel Weisz. It is based on the true story of a woman who worked as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia during the civil war, and discovered a sex trafficking scandal that had been covered up by the UN. She was later dismissed after bringing the issue to light, but took the story to the press. The story is difficult to watch due to a number of harrowing scenes, but those working on the film claim that in reality the situation was much worse. The Whistleblower is a good introduction to one aspect of the scandals surrounding the Bosnian War.

Valter Brani Sarajevo (Walter Defends Sarajevo) is not a film that is well known among western audiences, but after its release in the 1970s is became hugely successful in communist states – it even became China’s most popular foreign film of the decade. It was made when Bosnia was still part of Communist Yugoslavia, and the film is essentially a work of pro-Yugoslav (and anti-Nazi) propaganda. It is set in 1944, and tells the story of a Yugoslav resistance leader who defends the city of Sarajevo from the advancing Nazi army, and focuses on the key themes of Yugoslav brotherhood and unity. In retrospect, the film provides an insight not only into Yugoslavia’s Second World War experiences, but also the culture of the Communist Yugoslavia in which the film was produced.

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)

Loosely based on a book, Welcome to Sarajevo is the story of a group of American and British journalists who travel to Bosnia to cover the war. On arriving they discover an orphanage looking after children who have lost their parents in the violence, and the journalists begin to form relationships with the children and orphanage workers. The film is not a Hollywood blockbuster by any means, which gives it a more realistic feel. The main theme of the film is the experiences of journalists in a war zone, and the plot doesn’t get weighed down by political opinions or analysis of causes of the war. Another good introduction to the war, especially in Sarajevo.

Cirkus Columbia (2010)

Cirkus Columbia is set between the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the ensuing civil wars, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It tells the story of a Bosnian man who has been living in Germany and has become wealthy, who returns to his old home town after 20 years. It is a drama and black comedy, and mainly focuses on the personal story of the central character, but with important political rumblings in the background, and the subsequent onset of war. The film covers an interesting period of history that is often overlooked in favour of the war itself, and with a humorous perspective that makes a change from the usual harrowing war stories.

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (2013)

One of Bosnia’s most overlooked groups is the Roma, who tend to live in isolated rural communities away from centres of education or healthcare. This film tells the story (based on true events) of a Roma family who have to scramble together to find enough money to pay medical bills for a sudden emergency. The title comes from the father of the family’s line of work, which is collecting scrap metal to sell. The film is one of a few of the well known Bosnian films that covers a different aspect of Bosnian culture and society to the civil war.

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