USA / Kroatia 1996
Dir: Mandy Jacobson , Karmen Jelincic
63 min., 16mm, 1:1.37, Color, EP
Produktion: Bowery Productions. Kamera: Mario Delic. Musik: Tony Adzinikolov. Berater-Team: Laura Flanders (Journalistin), Suzanna Fried (Global Center for Women's Leadership), Michelle Materre (Educational Video Center), Julie Mertus (Human Rights Watch), Judy Mayotte (Womens' Commission for Refugee Women and Children), Roger Rathman (Amnesty International), Milcho Manchewski (Regisseur), Jane McClung (Traumaspezialistin, Womankind Counseling Center), Dale Rosen (Produzent, Leiter des Jewish Film Festivals, Boston), Maria Olujic (Antropologin), Steve Weine (Direktor der Traumatic Stress Clinic). Ausführende Produzenten: Julia Ormond, Maury Solomon, Anita Saewitz. Produzent: Mandy Jacobson. Schnitt: Susanne Rostock.
Uraufführung: 25. Juni 1996, New York.
Weltvertrieb: Jane Balfour Films, Burghley House, 35 Fortress Rd, London NW5 1AD, Großbritannien. Tel.: (44-171) 267 5392, Fax: (44-171) 267 4241.
Fri 14.02. 11:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Fri 14.02. 16:30 Delphi Sat 15.02. 22:30 Arsenal Sun 16.02. 19:30 Akademie der Künste Fri 21.02. 15:00 Babylon
Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, childhood friends and legal professionals, lived the lives of ordinary modern women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, until one day their neighbors became their tormentors. CALLING THE GHOSTS chronicles the transformation of those women as their personal struggle for survival turns into a larger fight for justice. Putting rape into the international lexicon of war crimes becomes their mission. Due to their brave efforts, their very torturers now stand indicted by the International War Crime Tribunal.
In June of 1996, the United Nations International Tribunal determined for the first time in history that rape will not, as in previous postwar courts, be tolerated as a by-product of war. Still, it remains to be seen if those charged with rape will be convicted.
While recollecting their experience in the Omarska Detention Camp, the women we spoke with remembered the moments when survival meant maintaining their spirit: "We made a circle with pieces of paper and we sat around the table. We found a candle in the drawer of one table and I began to call the ghosts. All we wanted was to cheer ourselves up a little. So we sat, but it was not working somehow. So Dika and I are calling the ghosts to come. Silence like the grave. And at that moment the doors opened and two chetniks came in. And I took this candle and the pieces of paper - the candle is burning - and I hid them in my skirt. They asked us, Are you calling the ghosts? I said no. Then they asked, What is burning in here? The only skirt I had was in flames."
The struggle of Jadranka and Nusreta has become a personal and political journey to avenge their friends who were killed in the concentration camp. So the ghosts of the friends and colleagues were a major source of inspiration as to their motivation for going public and working to ensure that the War Crimes Tribunal functions effectively.
Through Jadranka and Nusreta's journey for justice, they are calling the ghosts of thousands of women over the ages who have never had the opportunity to seek justice and retribution.
To invoke the past - to call the ghosts - challenges audiences to question their roles as witnesses, through the reality of televised genocides. How do we as an audience bear witness to these stories in such a way as to promote healing? What responsibility does that imply?
The Balkan conflict differs from all other wars in one crucial respect: for the first time ever, rape will be treated as a crime against humanity, and its perpetrators prosecuted at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. If, that is, they can be brought to justice. Although an estimated 20 000 women, mainly Muslim, were raped during the five-year conflict, punishing those responsible for the abuses has proved to be exceedingly difficult.
Hoping to draw attention to the plight of female war victims, South African sociologist Mandy Jacobson and Croatian-American filmmaker Karmen Jelincic have directed a riveting new documentary, CALLING THE GHOSTS, which details the Bosnian Serbs' deliberate use of mass rape as a military tactic. The one-hour film focuses on survivors of the Omarska concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Croat and Muslim men and women were routinely murdered by their Serb captors in August 1992.
Through a series of interviews with women interned at Omarska, the film addresses their reluctance - for fear of public humiliation and retribution - to testify at The Hague. Though painful, the chilling saga should not be brushed aside, explains women's rights lobbyist Sivac, an Omarska rape victim and one of the film's narrators: "If the story is not told, then no one will know about it, right?"
(In: Time, New York, July 29th, 1996)
Question: How did you approach the women who appear in CALLING THE GHOSTS?
Mandy Jacobson: Karmen arrived in the Balkans in the wake of a media revictimization of the war crime victims - women had really been conned, manipulated. The general feeling among them was, "Why did we speak out? Why are all these vultures coming here? Are there any raped women who speak English?"
So we were having to struggle with the question, "How are we any different?" The fact was, we were not. We claimed that we were doing an in-depth story, but it was hard to justify in the face of such abject tragedy. The women were not speaking out for some so-called feminist-agenda: they were speaking out in an attempt to stop the war. What we decided - and I think that it accounts for the strength of the material we were able to get - was not to switch on the camera for about seven months. We focused all our energies on trust-building. We were not expecting the women to trust us; their mistrust was very healthy.
I think as a result of that trust-building experience we were able to gain entry into these women's lives. Because we were saying, "Don't tell us what happened to you, but rather how you are making sense of it? What are your plans now, how are you going to go about reconstructing your life?" With Jadranka (Cigelj) and Nusreta (Sivac), we were really blessed because they found a way to start channeling their pain, their hatred, and their desire for revenge into work, transforming it into more profound issues of justice.
Question: How did you come to focus on Jadranka and Nusreta specifically?
Mandy Jacobson: My first idea when we got to Bosnia was to get a range of women from all over and do a collage of testimony. We met women who were in numerous camps who were subsequently seeking refuge in Croatia. But a lot of them had a hard time staying with us. It was a paradox that we had to deal with every minute of the day: "I am here in your face because you were raped. Even though I am trying not to ask you about the rape I'm constantly reminding you about it."
Jadaranka and Nusreta were the two women that let us into their lives in a very profound way. We had another woman as well, but in the end she couldn't deal with it and asked us not to use anything that we had done with her.
Question: It must have been difficult to envision along the way what the finished product would be like.
Mandy Jacobson: The story was constantly changing. I was interviewing the women's groups, the doctors, the social workers, the policy makers - doing the whole spectrum - without much of a story line. When you're shooting you're just trying to get some sense of intimacy with whomever you're interviewing. And, of course, the construction of the story really only came together in the editing room. We were in the editing room for a year, once we found Susanne Rostock, who's an incredible editor.
I didn't want it to become another victim story. The whole problem with the way this war has been represented is that by focusing solely on the ethnic dimension of the war, the impression has been created that this is a civil war, that it's about age-old Balkan ,savagery' and that therefore it could never happen to us. Only to those strange Balkanians...
Mandy Jacobson: Right. Exactly. And that's just not so. There were some very clear international laws that were transgressed, which could've been prevented, and that was the reason it spread. (...)
Question: The tendency in most societies has been to treat women not as individuals, but as symbols of tradition, culture, family - all of the stuff that, when a war breaks out, each side wants to stamp out in their enemy's camp.
Mandy Jacobson: The question nobody ever asks is: What is the culture of violence that allows this kind of male behaviour to happen in wartime? Clearly, rape was used as a tool of so-called ,ethnic cleansing' in this war, but it's not unique. In every war, rape is used as some form of political control.
When I started the project I was listening to the stories of the so-called Korean ,comfort-women', and it gave me chills because here are these women, fifty years later, speaking out about the persecution because nobody would listen to them earlier. When rape is alleged, the response consistently shows that it's sexualized: "I didn't rape her, she's so ugly," not "I didn't rape her because rape is something that our soldiers are not allowed to do."
Question: Nusreta refers to a woman whose husband divorced her when he learned what happened to her, and we often hear about numerous children born as a result of the rapes. What effect do you think that women's experience of the war will have on gender relations and women's status in Bosnia?
Mandy Jacobson: That's a good question. What was so interesting for me was to break down the notion that all men are bad and all women are good, because we saw a diversity of responses. One husband divorced his wife, but look how magnificent Nusreta's husband is. One can't generalize.
Certainly in the Bosnian community there's been an effort by the leadership not to re-victimize the women, not to isolate them. We've heard horrific stories of isolation and stories of women abandoning their rape babies, but also stories of women keeping theirs or adopting babies. So I think there's definitely been a mixed response.
I would hate to predict what that means for the future, but women as refugees are at the forefront of organizing political life and home life. Women are reconstructing the communities, the land, the country. So maybe their role is shifting somewhat to where men will conceptualize it differently. Of course, women have always done these things, but now you feel their presence more because the men are out fighting, unemployed and therefore drinking a lot, dealing with the trauma of this war.
There may still be some severe problems - domestic abuse in Serbia, for example, is on the increase because of the returning soldiers. What strikes me about the sequence in which the women talk about Omarska was how much effort and time they spent worrying about the men. And then at night they would have to worry about whether they were going to be taken out and raped. That's typical of a woman's position. (...)
Men have said to me, "If they know that war was breaking out, why didn't they all just pack up and leave?" But the point is that the village should not be the target of aggression. The statistics from the Second World War show that civilians once accounted for about 10 percent of casualties; now they're 80 to 90 percent - that's women and children primarily.
And that's why these kinds of films are so important - not to determine whether the Serbs are good guys or bad guys. I don't want anyone to come out of this film feeling that we've demonized them. We felt that the best way to present the truth was not with another piece about the collapse of Yugoslavia, but with a personal story, one which hopefully allows the audience to respond to these women as individuals, rather than as ,ethnicities'.
(Questions asked by Katherine Lewis, Film Nation)
Mandy Jacobson was born and raised in South Africa. Since 1991 she has produced short films and music videos. She also directs a weekly cultural programm on National South African Television. CALLING THE GHOSTS is her first feature length documentary film and will serve as a pilot for a longer series investigating the connection between violence against women in war and peace.
Karmen Jelincic was born in Croatia and was raised in the US. She has a Master's degree in international human rights advocacy as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television. Since 1991, she has been actively involved in advocacy efforts here and abroad in response to violations of human rights in former Yugoslavia. Before Calling the stars she made the documentary film Someone stole my baby (1990).
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.