The Slovenia Times

Film about rape in Bosnia wins Ljubljana docu fest award

Brochures for the 26th Documentary Film Festival. Photo: STA

Silence of Reason, a documentary by Macedonian director Kumjana Novakova that draws on survivor testimonies to shed light on mass rapes used as a weapon during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, won the Amnesty International Slovenia Human Rights Film Award at the 26th Festival of Documentary Film in Ljubljana.

Made in co-production between North Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the film draws on archival material of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia about a trial of mass rapes committed against women and girls by Bosnian Serb troops and police around Foča in SE Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The 2000 Foča Rape Camp Trial led to the codification of mass rape and sexual enslavement as a weapon of war as crimes against humanity under international law.

Juxtaposing text and landscape, the film declares the importance of listening no matter how challenging it might be. It is an appeal against attempts to normalise mass rape and sexual slavery, or to accept sexual violence as a natural element of war or military conflict.

"The absence of mass rapes is a carefully designed and continuously nurtured process, both in the history books and in collective memory. Acts of rape and sexual slavery are normalised and understood as a natural element of any war and an 'inevitable' consequence of any military conflict," Novakova writes towards the end of the film. The women witnesses' bravery before the court intervened in this process.

"When reason is silenced, one easily looks the other way, and the man-made hardships become normal", be it in Bosnia, Gaza or Ukraine or when it comes to climate disasters or violations of human rights, the judging panel said as it presented the award on 20 March.

The winning film "reminds us of one of the darkest episodes of modern Europe when many around the world looked the other way when the female body became a battleground for misogynistic and frustrated men", added the panel, featuring director of photography Lea Aymard, film director Urška Djukić, and Ayat Najafi, a Teheran-born film and theatre director who lives in Berlin.

Four other documentaries were in the running for the award: Snatched From the Source, a new documentary by Maja Weiss about Slovenian children kidnapped as part of the Nazi Lebensborn programme, Wang Bing's Man in Black, Zhang Jialing's Total Trust, and Bottlemen by Nemanja Vojinović.


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