Holding barbarism at bay

Issue 

Holding barbarism at bay

MGM Sarajevo
Sarajevo Group of Authors (SaGA)
Sydney Film Festival
Reviewed by Jennifer Thompson

MGM Sarajevo, made in that city during the war and ongoing siege, shows in stark reality one of the bleakest patches in the history of this century (MGM stands for Man God the Monster). Three films, each with its own logic, from SaGA film makers have been put together to form an astonishing picture of the fight to survive and preserve the civilisation of the city.

In one thread we join the everyday life of collecting water, fuel and home-grown food, through the lives of ordinary citizens, going into their smashed homes for a view of the hardships and the determination to stay in the city, waiting for a chance to rebuild.

In another, we follow the life of a theatre company, which US author and director Susan Sontag has joined with to direct a production of Waiting for Godot. The choice of play is a reflection on the feelings of Sarajevans about an end to the fighting. In one of the lighter moments of the film, an actor says that it's an appropriate production for Sarajevo, but they've decided to do the first act only, because the second is much the same as the first anyway.

The third thread, showing what it is that Sarajevans are fighting against to preserve their multi-ethnic existence, is a seemingly never-ending account by a Bosnian Serb soldier, on trial for war crimes, of the atrocities he has committed. His monotonous delivery, complete with demonstrations, only adds to the sense of the shocking brutality of the fighting which has torn families and community apart.

Combined, the three give us an insight into the tenacity and courage of Bosnians who are fighting against time and the outside world to preserve a way of life against something infinitely sinister. The competing feelings of hope and despair coming through also point to the unknown final outcome.