The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that waged between 1992 and 1995 is probably the most monumental chapter in the country’s history. It is therefore of no surprise that Bosnia’s post-war cinematography has mostly been dealing with this thematic.
This paper aims examine if and how these films have (re)shaped the collective memory and (re)written the national history of the Bosnian War in younger generations. The background of this research comprises of several articles discussing the impact of cinematography on the collective memory of other wars and conflict around the world.
The primary research paper of reference is that of James F. Moyer (2007) titled: “Film and the Public Memory: The Phenomena of Nonfiction Film Fragments”. This paper proposes the idea of film-fragments and how they offer a way to witness historical events shape public memory.
“The film fragment staves off the oblivion of no memory at all, on the one hand, and the “oblivion” of a world only of films claiming biography or history, on the other. Film fragments can emerge or “escape” from imposed stories, from old propaganda films or narratively tendentious documentaries, but largely due to the healthy presence archivally-and our healthy experience viewing-wise-of actually fragmented films.” (Moyer, 2007).
This above quote makes an important point – cinematography’s impact on shaping collective memory can be and often is a double-edged sword.
It can both “… allow the paradoxically frustrating and restorative act of witnessing.” and serve as a gateway to “the “oblivion” of a world only of films claiming biography or history” (Moyer, 2007).
The second source of publication is “Film and Memory” by Winfried Fluck. This source was taken mostly because it summarizes the cinematographic attitudes and techniques used to make a film memorable and shapes consciousness.
It lists great works such as Wild Strawberries, Gone With The Wind, Citizen Kane, etc. and the key features that grant for a film to be an “immediate experience”, an idea that signifies “..a direct, unmediated encounter with reality, something we also attribute to processes of remembering in which images appear to come to us in direct, unpredictable fashion and without the “gatekeeper”-function of consciousness.” (Fluck, 2003).
The publication primarily difference between Gone With The Wind and Citizen Kane and how those two movies, though immensely diverse in both of style and execution both depict a picture of a historic period and argue that cinema can “…distort or trivialize historical facts” meaning that a case can be made for cinematography impacting observers and reshaping collective memory over generations.
When it comes to the third publication cited, it is in fact the one that is most related to our research objective. Titled: “Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome? : Collective Memory of the Vietnam War in Fictional American Cinema Following the 1991 Gulf War” by Laura Elisabeth Ferguson, it deals with the “Vietnam Syndrome” and the ways that the portrayals and references to war in American cinematography cause the general population to have negative view on military interventions overseas.
It covers a vast array of films and performs analysis on what kind of portrayal is done of the Gulf War in them and offers insight as to the magnitude of impact this had in the collective “Vietnam Syndrome” present in the society today.
The last cited publication is a dissertation by Dijana Jelaca titled: “The Genealogy of Dislocated Memory: Yugoslav Cinema after the Break”
Given the type of publication, unlike the others listed, it has the added benefit of detail. In this work Jelaca discusses the state of Yugoslav cinema as a whole, how different films from the broken-up supra-nation view and portray the conflict and the implications this may have for the future of the region as well as the collective memory of the states involved.
In her conclusion Jelaca states that: “it appears that a growing number of films coming out of the region concern themselves with attempting to cast a more hopeful gaze towards the future by positioning the gloomy present as an obstacle that can, indeed, be overcome” (Jelaca, 2014). which in itself is a good thing for the region but also that foreign productions being involved in the making of the movies of this thematic can have contrasting ways in which they influence collective memory:
“Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey (USA, 2011) is a largely flat narrative that simplifies the circumstances that made the committing of such atrocities possible, Juanita Wilson’s As If I Am Not There (Ireland, 2010) manages to explore the deeper implications of gender normativity as one of the key mechanisms that drives ethnic-based sexual violence during wartime.” (Jelaca, 2014).
The above described publications have been of great influence in coming up with an experiment for this research, devised as follows:
Longitudinal research with two groups – one experimental group and one control group, both diverse on the criteria of ethnicity, sex, age and socio-economic status.
Both groups invited to participate will be given questionnaires containing questions on their perception of the conflict with the experimental group being invited to a screening before taking the questionnaire of a post-war movie dealing with the Bosnian War.
The movies selected for screening will be one Bosnian production, one Croatian production, one Serbian and one foreign/international production.
This latter is mostly due to us wanting the observe if and what kind influence on collective memory is due to who is being portrayed, how, why and by whom. The selected group will not be aware beforehand what movie they will be watching to eliminate the possibility of them establishing a positive or negative bias or preconception of the movie, maybe based on a review or another person’s opinion.
Our hypothesis is that there will be observable differences between the perceptions of the experimental and control group pertaining to the style of portrayal and content of the movie they were exposed to before taking the questionnaire.
We hope that this will aid in our understanding of the way narrative cinematography as a part of culture is affecting collective memory of an event as deeply rooted in the country’s history, polarizing and traumatic as the Bosnian War.
It is also important to highlight what kind of impact his correlation would have on the way we perceive the medium of film and the high degree of responsibility movie makers should have when touching upon historic themes and reenacting them on the big screen, as they would in fact be participating of the reshaping of collective memory and the rewriting of the history of a nation.