FAX-CONTACT WITH ARTISTS FROM HOUSTON // 04. 1995.
NEDZAD BEGOVIC // FILM DIRECTOR
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

April 1995

Nedzad Begovic
Film director
FAX-CONTACT WITH ARTISTS FROM HOUSTON

‘We didn’t have any other way to communicate except by fax. We send something and they call us by satellite phone and tell us what the exhibition looks like. It was very important for me because then I was creating my fantasies.They tell us, now we’re in a park, lots of people round us, there’s light. Everything in complete contrast to Sarajevo. No trees, no lights, no parks and there they have everything. That exhibition affected me deeply, as if I’d been there where it’s completely different. And it had a great effect on my imagination, what was the place like. I think it’s rare for an artist to communicate in that way with a foreign location and with his exhibition and with other people. Especially it was important that there were people, artists on another planet from a different ambience who wanted to give us some kind of support what we called a movement for spiritual support.’

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APRIL 1995


• In London, Irma Hadzimuratovic dies, the girl shot by a sniper and evacuated to London to save her life.
• New York, April 2, 1995. The UN Security Council adopts a resolution for the existing peacekeeping force of 40,000 soldiers, known as UNPROFOR, to be divided into three separate missions. The largest UN mission will be in Croatia, under the name of UNCRO, while the third mission will have the task of precluding the spread of wider hostilities in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.


• American ambassador Viktor Jackovich leaves Sarajevo to become the ambassador in Ljubljana.
• The Youth Theatre tours in Germany and Switzerland.


• Radovan Karadzic requests 30,000 tons of petrol from Akashi for spring sowing. Akashi requests a proposal from him for the project.
• Vatican: the Pope announces that “Bosnia is a deeply unjust conflict.”


• The Serbs steal vehicles and arms from the UN.


• Boutros Boutros-Ghali receives the Onassis award for promoting the role of the UN.


• “Vivicitta”, an international marathon – the race is not held on the city’s streets, but indoors at Skenderija, because UNPROFOR cannot guarantee the race’s safety.


• Richard Holbrooke: “We are concerned about the deteriorating situation in Bosnia.”
• When asked how the Bosnian Serbs knew the “blue helmets” intentions, UNPROFOR spokesman Alexander Ivanko replies, “The UN is a transparent organization.”


• Increase in prices at the market.


• The BiH government requests that UNPROFOR respect the procedures for protecting the “safe areas.”
• Radovan Karadzic invites former American president Jimmy Carter to return to BiH to extend the so-called ceasefire. International officials no longer come to Pale for negotiations. Karadzic is morally, politically and economically isolated.
• NATO warns that it will shoot down secondary military targets if primary ones are not available.
• Russia will reestablish ties with Pale, if Pale says ‘yes’ to the Contact Group’s peace plan.
• The war criminal Arkan cannot travel to Brazil for his honeymoon because of an Interpol warrant.
• In the border area around Skadar lake 30 petrol pumps are installed to supply oil smuggled from Albania. The tanks are transported by cars with BiH registration plates that are under the control of the Bosnian Serbs.


• The world learns of another sniper victim. Maja Djokić, a young girl, is killed.
• It is agreed that for the holiday of Passover the Jewish community be provided with the original copy of the Sarajevo “Haggadah.”
• Announcement of the Civil Defense, after three years of shelling: “In response to general danger announcements citizens are required to darken their rooms. Those who disobey this order will have their electricity turned off."


• The Contact Group cannot arrive in Sarajevo because their airplane is not given permission to land. The Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic refuses to give them permission. The Bosnian Serbs refuse to enter into discussions on the opening of the airport. They threaten to bring down any airplane that tries to land at the airport.
• The citizens of Sarajevo are asked for reduced movement; compliance with general danger signals; the use of “alternative corridors” for traffic; to observe alarm signals and the implementation of self-defense measures.
• City markets are moved to “alternate spaces”.


• The Bosnian Serbs kidnap four French citizens who work for the organization “Doctors without Borders”.


• At a crossing in Kobiljak Bosnian Serbs seize 10,000 DM from a lead UNHCR convoy. Chris Janowski, UNHCR spokesman: “We will not go further than Kobiljace.”


• The new round of humanitarian assistance includes:1 kg. flour, 500 g. of rice, 400 g. of beans, 200 g. of oil. Children receive 2 kg. of soy flour, 3 kg. of biscuits, while cans of “Ikar” are uncertain.
• A French member of UNPROFOR is killed, at the “Holiday Inn”, while setting up an “anti-sniper” shipping container.
• French Defense Minister, François Léotard, announces that if the French conditions for its military presence is not met that France will withdraw its troops.


• Regarding the difficult situation in Sarajevo, the president of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, warns: “As long as Karadzic’s Serbs continue shelling Sarajevo without reactions from the international community, the ARBiH will break out with the help of the citizens of Sarajevo. The other option is to hand over control of the city to UNPROFOR and to establish a demilitarized zone with a range of 20 km.”
• William Eagleton, UN civilian administrator for Sarajevo: “The Bosnian Serbs will not even hear of a common structure.”


• The Pope sends an Easter message: “To the families destroyed by war, and the victims of hatred and violence in Algeria, Bosnia, Burundi, south Sudan, the church does not hesitate to repeat the Easter message of peace.”


• The Bosnian Serbs refuse to allow the flight of American ambassador Victor Jakovich. He leaves the city in a UN APC, over Igman, the most dangerous road in the world. Jackovich appeals to the UN, but they confirm the decision by the Serb liaison officer, saying there is nothing they can do.
• UNPROFOR renews its “air bridge” upon agreeing to the conditions of the Bosnian Serbs: as long as Bosnians cannot use the planes they are guaranteed their safety.


• The Contact Group plane returns, as the Bosnian Serbs do not guarantee the plane’s safety, in which there are four civilians.
• The Bosnian Serbs: 1. Close the road to the runway; 2. Keep the road over Igman under constant fire; 3. Kill inhabitants from surrounding areas.


• UNPROFOR collapses like a poorly designed building because of flaws in its foundation from 1992. They were sent to keep a peace that never was. It becomes the fourth side in the conflict. Resolution 900 on Sarajevo is adopted.
• Sarajevo communicates with the world through e-mail, thanks to a donation from the Soros Foundation; the e-mail’s system is codenamed ZAMIR-SA. 56,049 messages are exchanged with the world.


• The First Corps of the ARBiH liberates the tallest peak of Treskavica, “Djokin tower,” and re-names it “Little Caba”.
• Akashi insists on extending the ceasefire. Radovan Karadzic refuses: “We offer a lasting peace, not a partial solution.”
• Because of daylight saving time, the curfew is moved, and now lasts from 11pm to 5am.
• Akashi does not receive permission from a Serb officer for a flight to land with two Americans and a German because they do not have permission to land. These are Steiner and Frasure, members of the Contact Group. The Serbs prohibit them from entering the city, threatening to shoot them down.
• François Mitterand invites the President of the Presidency of BiH, Aliji Izetbegovic, to Paris on May 8th, to participate in a celbration of the 50th anniversary of the triumph over fascism: “The time has come for us to definitively turn a page in history, to celebrate the reconciliation between European nations and consider the new perspectives we are offered,” reads the invitation.
• Regarding the entry ban on the Contact Group to the airport in Sarajevo, Radovan Karadzic explains: “We do not accept any resolutions, even those of the Security Counil. Members of the Contact Group cannot come to hold meetings with only Muslims present.”
• The suspension of sanctions against Yugoslavia is extended to 75 days, and not 100 as before.


• If the war escalates, Russian “blue-helmets” may withdraw.


• The Serbs demand an office at the airport in order to monitor the identities of entrants.


• Regarding the extension of the ceasefire, the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic announces: “Our side will not agree to a formal extension of the ceasefire. The Serbs have not accepted a peace plan, nor has Milosevic recognized BiH.”


• A satellite link is established between Sarajevo-Barcelona and the rest of the world as a donation of the city of Barcelona to Sarajevo.

Telephone lines

Telephone lines are going through satellites since August of 1992. Those expensive phones - each about $ 50,000 - are with foreign correspondents in the Holiday Inn, in the Office of Defense, in the Police Ministry, and in two industrial strongholds. Since December, citizens could try to get on a waiting list at the Post Office. Waiting is about a week long, and payment is in US dollars, 15-20 per minute, three minutes maximum. Some foreign journalists were known for charging ‘their’ communication favors i.e. use of satellite telephone, for double the price. That only shows you how expensive it is to go out into the world. However, it has been observed that lines with that world are working when the Postal tower on the occupied mountain of Trebevic sends a red light. Pay attention in case you have a working telephone and a view of the tower! Telephones are also working while the news from Belgrade is on, and while reporters from Pale, from the TV channel called Serbia in Bosnia, are linking into the Big System. Lines are open during their reports. What you need, again, are a working telephone and quick reflexes.

City communication is reduced to yelling under and in front of large blocks. Where there is no electricity, there can be no bells! Messages are delivered through messengers who carry them from one part of the town to another. Post offices are not selling Bosnian stamps yet. They haven’t been printed. To tell the truth, they aren’t necessary. There are no letters that can be mailed. It is only those scarce taxi-drivers who can establish links between sealed parts of the town. It happens this way: a cab-driver in one zone calls by the car radio his colleague in Grbavica. Then the colleague goes to the address of the person who is being looked for. He tells her to come in the car. While they are driving conversation goes on. The only disadvantage is that everyone in any cab can eavesdrop.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

Nedzad Begovic
He was born in 1958. He is a film director who graduated from the Law College. He has made 25 films in non- professional production and won 20 awards. In professional production he realized a dozen animated, documentary and short-feature films, as well as a TV serial with 30 episodes. He received awards for his films at the festivals in Krakow, Stuttgart, Belgrade and Oberhausen...

THE SIEGE
He filmed five documentaries, wrote two screenplays for feature films, created a cartoon and an album of comics. He is the author of the book “Quasimondo,” which was produced by the New York Museum of Contemporary Art and by Georges Pompidu in Paris. As one of the members of SAGA’s project SA-LIFE, he received the collective awards “Eyes of the Earth,” “Golden Grain Earth,” “Bafta” and “Felix”.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
I would like to be Superman for purely political reasons.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is senseless like a surplus of money.

What is you biggest loss?
I never experienced something that I would call the greatest loss.

What is your biggest gain?
God’s gift - I am always in love.

When and where were you happiest?
Twice in the maternity and on my own premiers.

What are your lost illusions?
The justice in the world does not exist, the essence is in force.

Describe your day at work.
I always work, even when I am in a pub or in the theater, in the street. I am parent even in my dreams, and that’s part of my day at work.

Sarajevo?
I remember a photo: a great oil stain has got to a bird. The bird tries to pull out of the stain. It is the only sign of life in the stain. That’s how it is with Sarajevo and with Bosnia. Everything else is just a stain.

What words don’t you use anymore?
American national interests, human rights, principles, United Nations, EC, NATO, Russia, Moscow, babushka, Miterand, kazachok, Owen, English general, Kremlin, Michael Rose, super powers, Volga, Boutros Ghali, Akashi, Russian salad, Cyrillic, balalaika...

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Philosophically YES, from experience NO.

Where would you like to live?
Sarajevo...and never anywhere else.

How have you survived?
To be honest, I had no choice, I survived and that’s it.

What are you afraid of?
I may fear for my family.

Does the past exist for you?
Of course. All the way back to 1958, when I was born.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
I don’t know everything that Darwin has thought of.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
I always thought that recipes were given to the mentally ill.

How would you like to die?
On time...maybe...like Hemingway...any way...I...on time.

Do you need hope to live?
No, I need freedom.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
1992-hell, 1993-horror, 1994-terrible.

How would you call this period of your life?
High inner temperature with strong doses of adrenaline.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
To politicians I wish that they can finally grow balls in the black hole.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I don’t feel like answering this last question.

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