Project STaR uses a whole-of-community approach to reconciliation where opposing, wounded identities and narratives run deep. The team is currently opening youth club sites in divided communities; training young people to identify and counteract hate speech; and bringing religious leaders together to help communities address the ongoing effects of the Bosnian War.
I was afraid to show the film in Sokolac, bringing with me many prejudices from the capital of BiH: I waited for the mostly-Serb residents of Sokolac to oppose all that I, a Bosniak woman, would say. However and to my pleasant surprise, I was welcomed by Sokolac - a city of peace.
The Sokolac Cultural Foundation and the Aurora Citizens Association led by Irena Šućur and associate Zoran Savčić organized this promotion with great professionalism and entrusted me with moderating this wonderful evening.
Before I could say anything, an elderly gentleman stood to speak:
"The most important thing in the world is freedom. It is so difficult for me to accept that we allowed the war of the nineties. My God, who did we war against? In the beginning, I went to three generals and begged that we keep the peace. It didn’t work. Later they arranged that I be an artilleryman over Sarajevo...I, with three girls at home...I could not, so I left for the “Seagull." I could not wage war. This film is so good, it needs to be spotlighted in schools, shown to all young people, so that they may understand the nonsense of war and so it may never happen again."
Immediately after he spoke, Father Milan, a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, came to the floor. He called for peace and love to all those present and spoke about the horrors of fratricidal wars. Every man is an angel with one wing, he said, and that if we want to fly, we must have the Other, and the other must be near us.
After him, a woman thanked the author for the objectivity of the film. Obviously excited, she said that the media should learn from him. She emphasized that hate speech was destructive and that it was necessary to put an end to the media that produces false portrayals of the "other side." She was a Sarajevan woman who came to Sokolac during the war, but throughout the war she and her parents stayed in contact with their friends in Sarajevo.
All the comments and discussions which followed the film were peaceful, motivational and positive. The audience congratulated the filmmaker. A pleasant, informal conversation developed and in the end, I was only sorry that the whole event had not been recorded.
"I wish my people in Maglaj could hear this," the filmmaker said.
I wish the entire Federation of BiH could hear this. These were different voices than the ones we were so used to hearing. It is up to us to give strength space for these voices to be heard. Let our ears hear...Peace lives here, next to us. Let's seize it with our hearts and not surrender easily to the voices of evil. Thank you Sokolac, city of peace. I can hardly wait until we meet again.
This text was translated from Bosnian, and you can read the Bosnian original here.