Video, colour, sound, 66 min
Since the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, Bosnia- Herzegovina, the former republic of Yugoslavia, has been divided into three entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska (the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the District of Brčko. Despite requirements of both parties under the Dayton Accords to respect a multi-religious and culturally pluralistic Bosnia, the Republika Srpska has seen over the past decade various attempts to reinvent the past in order to reinforce exclusive Serbian claims to the region: these include the building of imitation period churches, the excavation of false archaeological ruins, and the demolition of ancient buildings in order to supply “authentic” stones for the construction of an ethno-village-cum-theme park by renowned filmmaker Emir Kusturica, twice winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s best picture award.
The film Kamen (“Stones” in Bosnian, in Serbian and in Croatian) thus investigates the state of a society, in the aftermath of war, as it reestablishes its national, cultural and religious foundations on a denial and erasure of the past. The film focuses on two prominent examples: the Hercegovačka Gračanica monastery in Trebinje, a replica of the 14th-century Gračanica Monastery in Kosovo; and Kamengrad – officially Andrićgrad – in the town of Višegrad, on the eastern Bosnia border with Serbia.
The Hercegovačka Gračanica was built as an ostensible tribute to the Trebinje-born poet and staunch nationalist Jovan Dučić (1871–1943) whose remains, repatriated from the United States where he died in 1943, are housed in the church. While the original monastery near Pristina merges seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, its reinforced concrete replica dominates the town of Trebinje from a prominent hilltop. When the monastery opened in 2000, the majority of the towns historic mosques still lay in ruin, the result of wilful destruction at the height of hostilities.
Jointly financed by the Sarajevo-born Kusturica and the government of Republika Srpska, Andrićgrad is also dedicated to a renowned writer: the novelist and Nobel Prize laureate Ivo Andrić (1892–1975). In 2012, Kusturica caused uproar when the inhabitants of Trebinje discovered that workers had demolished a substantial part of the town’s Austro-Hungarian stone fort, with the partial consent of the local mayor, to complete the façades of his ethno-theme park in Visegrad. Local action from all communities in Trebinje, which effectively stopped the fort’s complete destruction, proved all the more embarrassing in light of Kusturica’s claim, in promoting his endeavour, that “people here let everything that reminds them of the past be destroyed”. Kusturica planned Andrićgrad, which opened as a tourist attraction and cultural centre, as a would-be film set for his longstanding aspiration to adapt Andrić’s historical novel The Bridge on the Drina to cinema. Standing on a spit of land where the Drina meets its tributary, the Rzav, Andrićgrad looks downriver to the famous 16th-century Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge that inspired the title and theme of Andrić’s celebrated novel.
While Andrićgrad imitates building styles from the various periods of Bosnian history described in Andric’s novel (a Byzantine tower, an Ottoman caravanserai, an Austro-Hungarian “Secession” café, etc.), it culminates, at the head of the spit,
in a miniature replica of the 14th-century Visoki Decani Monastry in Kosovo. Like the Herce- govačka Gračanica in Trebinje, the Visoki Decani miniature is clearly intended to reinforce the myth of Kosovo as the original Serbian homeland. Kusturica, who formally converted to Orthodox Christianity in 2005, emphasised his intentions when he opened his ethno-theme park on 28 June 2014, three years to the day after construction began. While that date marked the centenary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo, June 28 coincides with the most vener- ated Serbian national and religious holiday, Vidovdan, subsequently celebrated annually at Andrićgrad. Vidovdan (or Saint Vitus Day), marks the martyrdom of Prince Lazar at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the origin of the “Kosovo myth”, and is thus of central importance to the contempo- rary construction of Serbian nationalism. Despite the tour guide in Kamen awkwardly promoting Kusturica’s desire to celebrate the diversity of Bosnian identity, Andrićgrad includes no mosque. Yet, as the film recounts, Kusturica’s idealised pastiche of the region’s past stands on the grounds of a former sports centre, where the town’s majority Muslim population were forcibly held by Serbian forces during their campaign to ethnically cleanse the region. All attempts to commemorate the lives lost at Višegrad have met with local and official refusal.
Cinematography : Roland Edzard
Editing : Julien Loustau, Alexandra Melot
Sound editing : Josefina Rodriguez
Mixage : Mathieu Farnarier
Production : Sister Productions
With the support of Image/mouvement – Centre national des arts plastiques, de la Mairie de Paris et de la Fondation nationale des arts graphiques et plastiques
Read the attached press article (PDF)
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