Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)



Director:    Michael Winterbottom.

Starring:    Stephen Dillane (Michael Henderson), Woody Harrelson (Flynn), Marisa Tomei (Nina, children’s charity worker), Emira Nusevic (Emira), Kerry Fox (Jane Carson), Goran Visnjic (Risto Bavic), James Nesbitt (Gregg), Emily Lloyd (Annie McGee), Igor Dzambazov (Jacket), Gordana Gadzic (Mrs. Savic), Juliet Aubrey (Helen Henderson), Drazen Sivak (Zeljko), Vesna Orel (Munira), Davor Janjic (Dragan).

An English  reporter in Bosnia tries to save at least  one young child from genocide. 

Adapted from journalist Michael Nicholson's memoir Natasha's Story.


Good movie.  The images of genocide and concentration camps, however, are very disturbing, so be warned if you are sensitive.

Ethnic tensions and hatreds have long simmered in what was known as Yugoslavia.  These ethnic hatred boiled over with the coming of Hitler and his ethnic cleansing operations. Some of the ethnic groups joined in Hitler's slaughter of other ethnic groups in Yugoslavia.  The communist Tito was able to keep the lid on the ethnic hostilities.  But as soon as Tito was gone, the ethnic battles characteristic of World War II in Yugoslavia erupted to the surface again and it was as if World War II had never ended in Yugoslavia.  

In the early 1990s, the ethnic bloodshed started anew in earnest.

1991  -- the former Yugoslavia began to fracture as various areas declared their independence.  To stop these fractures the Yugoslavian army (mostly Serbian) attack Slovenia, then Crotia. 

1992 (April)  --  Bosnia declares its independence.  The Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian army try to take as much land as possible.  They also start a policy of ethnic cleansing: killing as many Muslim Bosnians as possible.  They also began a bombardment of the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo.  

The movie opens with a report on the Serbs having liberated the village of Vukovar.  To accomplish this task, the Serbs hit the village with some two million artillery shells. 

The scene changes to Sarajevo, 1992.  A wedding is stopped when the bride's mother is killed by Serb sniper fire. 

The film focuses on the journalists in Bosnia, the capital of Sarajevo, trying to cover the war (with the bloodiest stories being the best).  Most of the journalists hide from their consciences by insisting that their job is just to report on events, not to moralize about them or to try to change events.  But one English reporter, Michael Henderson (Stephen Dillane), risks his life to smuggle out at least one war orphan, Emira, from the war in Bosnia. 

The movie makes fun of the western nations and their leaders, quoting from quite a few of them.  The movie uses the tune "Don't Worry, Be Happy" against scenes of carnage; it quotes the UN as saying that Bosnia must wait because there were 13 other countries where the situation was much worse; President Bush I saying you can't negotiate with terrorists; the Pentagon denying that genocide was taking place in Bosnia; and an American reporter saying that if the situation were reversed and Muslims were killing Christians (rather than vice-versa), the Americans would have done something already.  The only positive quote was from Bill Clinton who said that in the face of genocide, we cannot just sit by and watch it happen.  

Documentary footage is used to highlight the violence of the war.  In this war there were:

275,000 Bosnians killed or missing.

175,000 Bosnians wounded.

 16,000  Bosnian children killed or missing.

 35,000  Bosnian children wounded.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


See the review for "Harrison's Flowers".


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