WELCOME TO SARAJEVO
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
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
"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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