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Filming began in the summer of 1996 - Sarajevo's first peaceful summer in four years

Filming began in the summer of 1996 ­ Sarajevo's first peaceful summer in four years. Although the city was making a valiant effort to return to normal, bombed­out buildings and streets of rubble remained everywhere. This allowed the production to give an accurate sense of what life was like for Sarajevans under siege, but it also meant logistical difficulties. There was literally no infrastructure in the city. Power and communications were still sporadic, mail service and telephones were not fully operational. And, most chilling of all, every location had to be checked for land mines before filming could begin.

But from the beginning it was clear there was no other choice but to shoot in Sarajevo. "The cast and crew all had very personal reactions to the city," states producer Damian Jones. "There we were working in a place where, not long before, people were being killed. It was very hard emotionally to fully comprehend the nightmare that these people and this city had been through."

Adds production designer Mark Geraghty: "It would have been virtually impossible to recreate Sarajevo anywhere else. We had access to places that people hadn't been in for 3-4 years and they were fantastic, a designer's dream."

Originally, cast and crew planned to recreate such emotional moments from the siege as the bread line massacre in a location outside Sarajevo out of respect for the city's recovering people. But to the filmmakers surprise, they found Sarajevans were eager to recreate these scenes themselves. Explains Michael Winterbottom: "Local people wanted the world to see what happened and were very keen for us to get it as accurate as possible."

Mark Geraghty adds: "The spirit of the Sarajevans is extraordinary. They want the world to see what happened. We can never understand how they feel and how they can get up and smile every morning."

Adding to the film's style of urgent realism are the sequences of actual news footage selected by Michael Winterbottom from reels of Bosnian TV and ITN coverage. Winterbottom felt that "live" footage would emphasize how anaesthetized people have become to what they see on the news. "I used footage that we had all seen on the news at the time, footage that would be familiar to the audience so they would remember that they had seen it before. I wanted to make the point that we had watched this war on television, but very often just switched channels."

Winterbottom also used stock film footage because he felt that the reality he had seen when he was researching footage was so much more devastating than anything he could have dramatized." He explains: "It seemed crazy to recreate the atrocities of the war when we had seen this footage and knew how powerful it was. I think it also keeps reminding the audience that this really happened. You can't refute these images. And maybe people will see them in a different light through the eyes of characters they can relate to."

Structurally, Winterbottom interspersed dramatic sequences with the documentary footage to give the sense of "chapters" in the film. "Between each of these stories, you get this much larger scale picture of what was happening in the war. I think intercutting the footage in this way also suited the style I chose for the film ­­ short, sharp, high­energy, hopefully with a lot of punch."

Adding to the style is Winterbottom's layering of lilting pop music over highly disturbing imagery. &quo


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