QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM BERLIN
Three decades ago, after the collapse of Yugoslavia and the end of the Bosnian war, Bosnia Herzegovina switched quickly to capitalism. Yet, country’s people and institutions did not adapt overnight. The changes have been slow and gradual. The various towns are grappling with the new economic system, and finding novel and very peculiar ways to make ends meet.
The town of Medjugorje capitalised from the sighting of the Virgin Mary, and turned itself into a large pilgrimage centre. Large crowds are to be seen throughout the year, while large loudspeakers deliver the gospel in various languages. The town of Andricgrad pays tribute to Nobel laureate Ivo Andric, with a helping hand from professor and filmmaker Emir Kusturica (who also happens to be a local). Andricgrad saw many buildings erected from stone taken from other parts of the Balkans, including Kosovo. In Visiko, a hill conceals ancient pyramids that attract cosmic energy enthusiasts. In Tuzla, the disused salt mines have been turned into lakes. The pyramid, the Virgin, the mines and the houses all have one thing in common: they are made of stone.
Religion is a central topic. The Virgin in Catholic, while Andricgrad is Orthodox. We also learn about Muslim warriors buried at the spot where they were killed, their ghosts still visible to dervishes and the most devout followers. Religion is not a divisive issue in Bosnia, at least not compared to its neighbours. The country is historically tolerant of multi-faith. The country is also anti-fascist. We learn that six out of seven anti-Hitler struggles in Yugoslavia started in Bosnia. A major uprising in 1941 commemorated its 75th anniversary in 2016, and we follow some of the celebrations. A local explains: “mixed marriage is between a man and a goat. Marriage between a man and a woman is not mixed. That’s my definition of anti-fascism”
Stone Speakers is a stern and yet ingenious documentary. The camera is entirely static, allowing viewers to reflect upon the topics at length. And the interview style is entirely unique. Interviewees stand still motionless outdoors location while their pre-recorded voice is played out. Yet the topics are a little esoteric, and you might struggle to follow the narrative if you are not very familiar with the Balkans.
Stone Speakers is showing in the 69th Berlin International Film Festival as part of the Forum section.