Remembering and Reacting

Shirley here.

For our Artistic Roundtable on Sunday, November 16, Ari handed over the moderator stand to journalist Jonathan Landay–who hosted our discussion titled Being Bosnian: Identity, Memory and the Trial of Radovan Karadzic.

And indeed the discussion was full of memories, some very personal–as with Tarik Bilalbegovic who was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-70s, and was just approaching adulthood when the conflict broke out.

We heard about memories from a diplomatic standpoint: from the former Ambassador Robert William Farrand, who from 1997-2000 served as supervisor of the Bosnian municipality of Brcko and, concurrently, as Deputy High Representative for the northern sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ambassador Farrand offered some memories that were almost humorous (his impression of the archetypal Balkan “shrug” that he received as a response from the people around him when things didn’t go quite as quickly, or efficiently as he’d hoped sticks in my memory) and at other times heartbreaking–one, a story about a Bosniak who after the war could not even begin to allow for a distinction between the specific Bosnian Serbs who raided his home and terrorized his family, and ALL Bosnian Serbs–a natural but ultimately paralysing reaction.

We heard memories from Jonathan himself with both the objective eye of a journalist, and from a more personal perspective–as an American married to a woman of Serbo-Croatian descent who was forced to leave the region because of her work with Human Rights Watch.

We heard from Tom Gjelten of NPR, another journalist who spent a great deal of time covering the war–who in fact has written a book about his time in Sarajevo and the ideological roots of this conflict–and who reminded us, “The lesson of that war has not yet been fully grasped”.

And finally we heard a legal perspective on both the trial of Radovan Karadzic and on trying International War Crimes in general from Marshall Breger, currently a professor of law at Catholic University. He reminded us of the nuances and differences, which may at times seem completely semantic, between what qualifies as a war crime and what qualifies as individual abuses of power.

The more we unpack this conflict, the more we realize we have to learn.

Join us this Sunday, November 23 for a special Artistic Roundtable discussion (still at 5pm after the matinee) where we will hear the reactions, writings, and reasoning’s penned by students from the University of Michigan and UC Berkeley after seeing HONEY BROWN EYES. The next generation speaks; let us be the ones to listen.