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Welcome on the courtroom number 1 of the special building in district court of BelgradeWelcome on the courtroom number 1 of the special building in district court of BelgradeWelcome on the courtroom number 1 of the special building in district court of Belgrade

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Video, colour, sound, 85 min

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Made in collaboration with artist Raphaël Grisey and social anthropologist Stéphanie Mahieu, Prvi deo, the Florence Lazar’s first full-length documentary, follows the first war crimes trial that took place in the wake of the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague had been established by the UN Security Council as early as 1993, two years after major war crimes and atrocities had come to light. However, trials in The Hague did not begin until 2005. Established in Belgrade in 2003 by the government of prime min- ister Zoran Djindjić (who was assassinated in March 2003), and helped by the prospect of Serbia joining the EU, the Serbian “War Crimes Chamber” began trials in March 2004, the first such trials in Europe since the Nuremberg trials six decades earlier.
Initial hearings took place between July 2004 and November 2005, during which fourteen former paramilitary members of the Vukovar Territorial Defence stood trial for the execution of at least 260 prisoners of war and civilians at Ovčara farm, on the outskirts of Vukovar, in eastern Croatia on the night between 21 and 22 November 1991. The first major atrocity of the Yugoslav wars, following Croatia’s claim to independence in October 1991, the Ovčara massacre, in which male prisoners were separated from a Red Cross convoy leaving a hospital in Vukovar, occurred in the immediate aftermath of a three-month siege, which saw the city fall to the Serbian-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and paramilitary forces. Three officers who ordered the massacre were later tried in The Hague.
As the hearings in Belgrade unfolded, filming of Prvi deo took place between April 2004 and August 2005, and extended to Zagreb, Vukovar and Ovčara. The hearings in Belgrade, however, provide the core of the film. While the ICTY made the hearings in The Hague available to the public, notably live via the Internet, the Belgrade District War Crime’s Panel, however, prohibited cameras and other recording devices in the courtroom. Prvi deo subtly overcomes that constraint by following the members of the Vukovarske Majke (Vukovar Mothers), an association of victims’ families as they discuss the trial – often intensely – after each day’s hearing in a nondescript hotel lobby in Belgrade (the majority of the members had trav- travelled from Zagreb to attend the trial) and during breaks in the tribunal’s corridors. Outside the strict protocol and constraints of the courtroom, the film thus offers, as Stéphanie Mahieu has argued, a “more nuanced and polyphonic view”. In so doing, it subsequently leaves “space for doubt, emotion, digression”,etc.,whichthehearingsthemselves, while allowing the family members of the victims to attend, could not accommodate.

Co-directed with Raphaël Grisey
With the support of Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris.

Read the attached press article (PDF)


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