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WELCOME TO SARAJEVO

Location

To truly capture those stories, for Winterbottom, Broadbent and Jones, shooting in Sarajevo was absolutely essential. The filmmakers sent the script to the Ministry of Culture, the local film group Saga which made films throughout the war and IFOR ­ the NATO "Implementation Force" who had temporary control of the city ­ the minute it was completed and began to wage their own campaign to obtain permission to film in the city.

Ismet Anautalic from Saga explains why he thinks it was important to allow WELCOME TO SARAJEVO to shoot on location: "It was a very good script, it showed understanding of the situation and had a very correct approach. It is very important to us that films are made here. We have already forgotten lots of things that happened here during the war and how difficult life was. Films can help us and the world to remember."

Producer Damian Jones adds: "If you are going to make a film set in Sarajevo, you have to film it there and that seemed impossible when we started the project. Fortunately for everyone peace now exists in Sarajevo and although it was a difficult process it was essential to film in Sarajevo, and it was a privilege to film there."

The filmmakers' first trip to Sarajevo in January 1996 ­ just days after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord and the concomitant cease­fire in Sarajevo ­confirmed everything Michael Winterbottom had heard, read and seen on television, and also gave them a taste of the logistical difficulties to come in shooting in Sarajevo. The hotel where the filmmakers stayed was one of only two open at the time and it had no running water or heat. Rockets had drilled large holes through many of the hotel's walls.

"The physical destruction was terrible and it was the middle of winter so everything looked bleak. It felt very much like a war zone," observes the director. "When we arrived in Sarajevo, we were shocked by the destruction. But in the heart of the city there were people in bars and restaurants. There was an amazing amount of normal life going on amid the destruction. It was fascinating and strange."

Graham Broadbent describes his reaction to the city: "It was an extraordinary experience to see a story you have been working on for 2­3 years come to life ­ to see the real Holiday Inn with the bedrooms blown out, the real streets, the real hospital. It's also a very difficult experience personally to arrive in a city which has had such a terrible time."

Winterbottom's trip also gave him a chance to converse with Western journalists who had been stationed there throughout the siege. "A lot of the journalists explained how they had been very moved by what was happening and very closely involved with it. Many of them had campaigned for action of the part of politicians. There seemed something about the place that affected everyone who was there very strongly ­ the sense of a civilian population being under siege and under threat on a daily basis." Winterbottom also established a close connection with Sarajevo­based Saga Films, whose directors and cameramen filmed the war and the siege day to day.

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