Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mostar will have a mayor!

Mostar will have a mayor!! The following is the statement by Valentin Inzko, head of OHR in BiH, made yesterday.

I am also taking a decision on Mostar today..

As you are aware, we have not had an elected Mayor for 14 months, nor a budget for 2009.

This has dramatic consequences on the citizens of Mostar and it is scandalous and shocking that political leaders, which they have elected to address these issues, have shown no serious willingness to do so.

I have already had to act twice on Mostar – you know that I did it reluctantly and I only used my Bonn powers in a technical way to extend the budget and also to impose secret balloting, which is in the Statute of Mostar, Article 36..

As the secret vote has been misused this time, and bearing in mind the deteriorating conditions in the city, I now have to step in, in Mostar, again.

I have decided to amend the city statute, because previously there was no need to amend the city statute, because secret balloting is foreseen anyway in the city statute, it was only not applied. But, this time I have to amend the city statute in order to introduce a simple majority in the third round of voting in Mostar. Accordingly, in the first two rounds, a two-thirds majority will be necessary according to the city statute. But, in the third round, a simple majority of councilors present and voting will suffice.

Hopefully – and I have included a clause obliging political parties to attend the session in this respect - this will result in the election of a Mayor. We still have this necessity of having a qualified presence during the voting – a quorum, which means that at least 18 city councilors would have to be present. I think this is very important to maintain the legality, legitimacy and dignity of the new Mayor, and that he is being elected by more than half of the city councilors. Otherwise, it could happen with just a simple majority. Without quorum it could happen that he would get four votes or three votes or whatever. This we would like to prevent, so we are asking for a quorum during the election. And, if this quorum is achieved, a simple majority would suffice of those present.

I have also decided to include a provision dealing with the budget, setting tight timelines for the Mayor to formulate a proposal and for the City Council to adopt it. Should it fail, the Mayor could adopt the budget himself. This is about the 2009 budget, which has to be closed in order to allow the city of Mostar to prepare for the 2010 budget.

I trust that with these measures, and with the willingness of all political actors, we can finally move forward on this and reach a situation where the citizens of Mostar’s legitimate expectations are finally addressed.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fildžan sevdaha!

This is the jingle for my radio show on Abraš Radio (http://radio.abrasmedia.info)
Tune in on Wednesdays from 7-8 pm Bosnian time for an hour of traditional Bosnian music, presented in an untraditional manner! Our motto: "it's not your grandma's sevdah"!
Listen on the internet, the radio is 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
But especially listen on Wednesdays during my show!! ;)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Italian for Beginners

In October, a team from the Abrašević media center (including yours truly) spent a week in Turin to learn about web radio in a youth center called CPG. Below is a short video I made which some activities of the center. I especially love the breakdancers!


Abrašević Media Center has started up again with web radio-- the first, and only, web radio station in all of Bosnia-Herzegovina! listen to a wonderful mix of alternative music and news by going to www.abrasmedia.info and clicking on the link on the left hand side of the page.


I went to a refugee camp near Mostar in order to do some filming for a humanitarian organization (Mission without Borders), which works there. While there, I was struck by the problems these internally displaced people face, but also by the courage and creativity with which they live in such difficult surroundings. One man, Pavao Tuljić, played for us on a Bosnian traditional instrument called the šargija. (A šargija player is called a "šargijaš".) Below is a short video I made of an interview with him and then him playing. (For those who don't speak Bosnian, you might want to skip to the part where he is playing!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Center for Information!

Two more short videos I made for the Info Center in Abrasevic, about the training for peer educators and the school presentations by peer educators.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Democracy in Translation

Trailer of a documentary film about the beginnings of Pokret DOSTA! in Sarajevo.

"The film was created as an attempt to document one of the most important triumphs of civil society in BH, and to explain the views, opinions and happenings during the protests in Sarajevo in 2008 as a reaction to the murder of teenager Denis Mrnjavac. We want to show that in BH civil democracy is possible and that citizens can effect change in their society through active engagement."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Info for all!

This is a short video I made for the Info Centar in Abrasevic, which provides peer education about sexual and reproductive health for schools and institutions in Mostar.

Ne zaUSTAVljate nas!

At the beginning of August, Pokret DOSTA! had a national gathering in Mostar to promote a petition drive for direct democracy, called "Ne ZaUSTAVljate nas", translated as "Don't stop us", but it's also a pun in Bosnian because the word for constitution "ustav" in in the middle of the word "stop". Bosnia-Herzegovina is hampered politically by the post-war constitution (among other things), and one concrete measure that the DOSTA! movement wants to take in making politicians more accountable to voters is introducing this provision for direct democracy, basically, advocating for referendums to have more of a political impact. I made a short video of the petition drive, which was held in a village market near Mostar.

Loose translations of the interviews:
"Parliament doesn't have to take petitions into consideration, but when we finish this petition drive, if we collect enough signatures, Parliament will be legally obligated to consider petitions more seriously. Just put down your name, signature and social security number."

"We're forcing politicians to take us seriously at last and to realize that citizens can change something, that politicians don't have absolute power in the period between each election."

"If we're not aware of the fact that we can change something, then we wouldn't be doing this. We would be sitting somewhere having coffee, not walking around in the heat collecting signatures."

"If we try, there's a big chance that we can change something. If we don't try, then we know for sure that nothing will change."

(The music in the video is from the local rapper Frenkie and his song "Promjene". The chorus says, "It's not getting better because we're just waiting for change", and then the slogan at the end of the video says, "Don't just wait for change!")

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crime and Politics

Balkan Insight article:
"Tensions are running high in Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, following the murder of a member of a local radical Muslim Wahhabi sect."

DOSTA! movement press statement: Stop hate speech now!

The DOSTA! movement strongly condemns the recent murder of Magdi Dizdarević, a young man from Mostar who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid with his life for his attempt to help a man in trouble.

We demand that the relevant agencies do their job, conduct the investigation and promptly bring the guilty to justice. It is a disgrace that Magdi's murderers are freely moving about Mostar, while the police, in spite of many eye witnesses, announce that the investigation will take months and that they have no basis on which to apprehend suspects. Our streets are already filled with murders who walk at liberty and unaccused criminals, while ordinary citizens increasingly fear for their own personal safety on those same streets. This is the last chance for those in authority to finally take on their responsibilities.

We invite all actors in the public sphere to abstain from inappropriate and rude commentary by which they want to use this tragedy to spread hate speech, creating new divisions in society and political marketing. We call on our fellow citizens not to allow the loss of yet another human life to be justified for any kind of reasons or to use it as a means to incite further violence. It is saddening and frightening that the need exists at all to remind people to be human. But that is exactly what we most need to be.

We hope that citizens of Mostar will show that they have enough human solidarity and civic responsibility not only to insist that the responsible authorities take action immediately, but also that they come forward with any information they might have, in order that Magdi's killers will be apprehended as soon as possible.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Theater of the Absurd

"What is the reason for these posters? Because of the situation in Mostar, we have already several times invited the city council to do its job and even asked OHR to be involved in the question of Mostar.

OHR has not in any way answer the letter we sent which was signed by some 700 citizens, so we are not relying on help from the Office any longer.

As far as the city councillor are concerned, if they had any sense of shame, conscious or courage, they would already have handed in their own resignations.

However, the problem is much greater, the problem is that the city council has turned into a chess game of nationalist politics.

As many members of the media have already commented, it is clear that the problem is connected with HDZ - SDA. One side says, "We made an agreement, which they have not respected", while the other side always replies that the agreement was different from what the other side said. They prefer to keep the citizens of Mostar as "sheep in a pen", separated, deceived.

This is the reason for these posters. That we show Čović, Tihić and their cronies (because there are still more "Čović"s and "Tihić"s out there!) that they will not succeed. We don't recognize a border at the Boulevard, for us Mostar doesn't have two sides-- only the river Neretva has two sides.

What is even more important is that because of these "sheep corrals" with nationalistic shepherds, Mostarians are going hungry. Shame on you all, they are not seeking what belongs to you or to others, but rather simply to what they have earned. And you, Čović i Tihić, are forcing them to seem pathetic because they must beg you to feed them at last.

We remind you again, our citizens are endangered not by nationalism but by social conditions!

The tragedy, gentlemen, is what you are doing. But because of our fellow citizens and future generations, we will not allow this to continue! And you cannot silence us. While your black pawns and you kings make your moves on this chessboard, we will stand as a mass of white pawns. We won't allow you to make the first move any longer."

--press release of the DOSTA! movement

Apartment hunting

A billboard in the center of Mostar pokes fun at recently-resigned premiere Nedžad Branković, who was implicated in a corruption scandal related to a property deal. When questioned on how he had actually purchased his apartment, he replied "I don't remember... but I did it legally." The billboard says-- "Best deal on apartment! 1.23 sq meters, 920 KM (nb: about $600) with a certificate of value. Real Estate done legally".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If only...

Sevdah is the traditional music of Bosnia, sometimes called "Bosnian blues". Damir Imamović, who plays often at Abrašević, sings classic sevdah with some modern touches. This is a music video of Damir and his band performing "Da sam ptica" (If only I were a bird), and was partly filmed in Abrašević.

"Damir Imamović's new video is part of a documentary film under the working title of 'Sevdah Pictionary', which was filmed by the Bosnian-Croatian production house DIM. Audio on which the video is based is an authentic recording from a concert by the Damir Imamović Trio in Mostar's Abrašević, which was held in Nov. 2007."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Firefighters of the world, unite!

Mostar firefighters are on strike (štrajk in Bosnian) because due to the current political crisis they haven't been paid in 3 months. Yesterday they staged a demonstration in front of city hall, with signs saying "we're hungry!" and "Ljubo (local politician), we have children too!"

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Petition in the Yugosphere

Last weekend, the Mostar cell of the DOSTA! movement organized a petition to the Office of the High Representative to finally intervene in Mostar. OHR has the authority to put pressure on the city council to finally choose a mayor and adopt a city budget (now 8 months after the election). The firefighters of the city are on strike and the hot weather of summer is already here... The next city council meeting is on Monday. Will Mostar have a mayor?

Activists from DOSTA! collected 600 signatures over a period of 4 hours in three locations in the city.

Interestingly, this video about the Bosnian-Herzegovinian political situation is edited to a song called "Zašto te imam" (Why do I have you?) by Croatian band Elemental, yet another illustration of what journalist Tim Judah calls the "Yugosphere", the inter-connectedness of the former Yugoslav states (culturally, economically) though they are now all independent nations.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


This weekend in Abrašević, young local actors will perform a play based on an ancient Persian myth, written and directed here by an Iranian-Canadian, with sound effects produced by Bosnian sound artists. I had the chance to shoot during their rehearsals and here is the video that I made-- for those who can't make it to Mostar for the weekend! The play, whose unlikely herdsman-turned-archer communicates a power message of pacifism, draws on eastern-influenced acting methods (Japanese Noh theater, etc).

Šuti! Trpi!

In March, the United Trade Unions of Mostar held a warning strike and a protest in front of the cantonal education office in protest of the cantonal government's decision to reduce the pay of all teachers by 15%-- but not to reduce the pay of government workers.

The protest was really significant because the Bosniak and Croats teacher's unions supported the strike together. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a divided school system-- the students are taught either "Bosnian" or "Croatian" language (about as different as British and American English), different versions of history (especially recent history), etc. The vacations are different, because the Croat children have holidays during Christmas and the Bosniak children during bajram. Sometimes, to increase the irony, these school systems are actually in the same building, but at different times of the day- the so-called "two schools under one roof". But, in this one act of protest, these two teacher's unions banded together and staged a joint protest. About 500 people showed up, which is absolutely huge for a city like Mostar. (Video edited to the song "Šuti, Trpi" by Dubioza Kolektiv, a song about the corruption of politicians in this country and how these politicians expect that no one will stand up and make them stop. Note: Last week, corrupt (ex)premier of the Federation, Nedžad Branković, handed in his resignation due to pressure from citizen groups.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bajke u Slici

I love the style of this map/painting of Mostar.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Environment and Organic Production

In March 2008, OKC Abrasevic/Film Klub, in cooperation with an Italian development NGO (CEFA) sponsored a video workshop to promote the concept of organic and local food. I participated in this workshop, which produced one mini-documentary about a local organic farmer and several educational video spots. It was a great experience for me to learn about video and documentary filmmaking, plus it was a lot of fun. Finally (um, a year later...) I figured out how to convert, compress and put this material on You-tube! Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Resistance

Dubioza Kolektiv wrote a song for the DOSTA! movement-- rap as it was first intended, to speak about the problems of the people! of the neighborhoods! of the streets! Below is the English translation of the lyrics (not a totally literal translation, but good enough!)

Mobilize. Organize. Resist.

Dubioze Kolektiva, feauring Frenkie, DOSTA!

Too long they've decided for me which God I believe in. I won't give up, I'm going to act. They leave me only suppressed tensions, while the truth has three different versions. It's echoing, echoing...

This is the best system there is. Bread and circuses, you're neither hungry nor full. This is the worst system there is. Gentlemen, you will not always be hidden behind walls. You are a special breed, you're the cream of the crop. Because of you, the anthem is silent, our anthem is mute.

Bosnia dear mother, Herzegovina, you will always be the land and we will be the manure. If you are fed up with everything and you want a better life, take control and have an opinion. Be the king of your own mind. The system will come apart, stitch by stitch. Rise up and fight, move toward freedom because this train going to fall into the water. You're quiet and that pleases them. Be a fire in which the system will burn. Is there life after democracy? While the three same parties are always in power, the elections are like nationalist sheep corrals, staged disputes, always the same bull.

"Trilemma", dilemma of the system, it seems that there's no solution, business is the only motif, our government is dedicated to dozing. Hey no problem, no problem. Every vote you give is important, in this game they are always mine, yours, ours... The three are the same just with a different slant, the government belongs to them and it smells like a lie, I know it, and you know it!

Now I say Enough! now I say Enough, I'm going to fight because that's all that's left, Now I say enough, this is the last bit of pride left to me. Now I'm saying Enough, we're going to the plateau because that's all that's left to us. Now I say Enough!

What is the DOSTA! movement?

Come and Say, ENOUGH!
Activist movement of citizens, DOSTA!

DOSTA! is an activist movement of citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina which fights for the dignity of citizens of BH, is involved in activating and engaging people in solving the acute problems of society, and desires to create an active and aware citizen opposition in BH through public expressions of civil dissatisfaction, active and direct participation of greater and greater numbers of citizens as well as directly impacting the socio-political processes. The movement does this through the engagement of groups and individuals, as well as organizations and institutions which share the values and principles of the movement.

-inert and passive citizenry
-critically low level of citizen participation in public life
-lack of strong and independent activist citizen initiatives in BH
-ignorant and unaccountable political machine
-alarming social and economic situation and the great number of problems to be resolved
-critical situation of at-risk populations in BH
-feelings of powerlessness among citizens of BH to ever be able impact the decisions which concern them
-poor communication of citizens with the government and politicians generally

Goals of the DOSTA! Movement
-To create and amass an engaged and credible citizen-led initiative for the public expression of civil dissatisfaction
-Empowering the role of citizens in the decision-making process and strengthening citizen participation
-Recognizing the key social and economic problems of BH citizens and engaging the public in solving them
-Affecting the accountability of the political machine and institutions in all parts of BH and all levels of government.
-In a creative, engaged and uncompromising way, developing civic awareness about the power of active and massive participation through reacting to current problems and insisting that they be solved

Rules and Principles of Work
-the movement must be independent from all political parties and initiatives, as well as from nongovernmental organizations and any kind of institution
-members of the movement must be disciplined and committed
-the movement must be open to all types of people, interests and activities, insofar as they are in accordance with the goals and values of the movement
-the movement must be public and accessible to all
-the movement does not make any kind of compromise in any situation with the government or politicians, rather it uncompromisingly insists on the fulfillment of its own goals and demands
-DOSTA! is a movement of BH citizens and is simply open to all
-No activity of the movement may be in any way contrary to the values and goals of the movement

-Social justice
-Awareness of citizens
-Absolute power to the voice of the people
-No nationalism or promotion of national interests

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Easter means

Happy Easter! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.

I had a wonderful Easter. After the service, everyone in the congregation stayed to have cake and coffee together and then in the afternoon, K and I went to the Roma community for our Sunday school program with kids. (We're a bit behind the church calendar in the storytelling though-- yesterday Gabriel was just telling Mary she is going to have a son.)

On the way to the Roma community, there was a large group of the girls waiting at a bus stop, so we were able to just pick them up on our way and take them back to the community-- and then they came to play with us. I had never seen them out like that before on a Sunday-- their parents had sent them out early in the morning to the Croat side of the city to beg after all the masses. We left around 2:30, so they had come from begging after the noon mass. This group of girls rarely beg (they are always working to collect plastic bottles from dumpsters), and they were embarrassed and wouldn't tell us where they had been.

Their teenage brothers, who can't beg because they are too old, came to the church service in the morning and had cake and coffee with us. They can't beg, because as K said, "They look too scary, people would be afraid that they would rob them." They couldn't beg from the rich Catholics on the west side of Mostar because they are too old, and so they could come to our evangelical church service on the Muslim side of Mostar. Life here can be so complicated...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tino's Gasp

I had a great moment the other day in the Roma mobile school. We have been reviewing the dozen or so letters that the students have already learned (I, T, O, C, A, etc) but it didn't seem like the letters were sticking in anyone's head. We would do a whole worksheet on the letter T (as a review, T was already taught before), but then five minutes later no one could remember how to write the letter T.

But while I was working with Tino to write the word "biciklo" and told him, while sounding it out, that the third letter is "C", he started to say, "how do you write---" and then let out a gasp and wrote the letter C himself. I think he was shocked to realize that he actually knew how to write it, and frankly, so was I. That was the best thing that happened to me all day.



Monday, April 6, 2009

Thought for food

Because of the political crisis in Mostar (no mayor, thus no city budget for 2009 and no city funding), people are going hungry. Especially at the two municipal soup kitchens, which are operating at 30% of capacity. (There are two, of course, one for each side of the city...)

So Pokret Dosta! Mostar decided to organize a humanitarian action, placing volunteers in three of the major shopping centers in the city and asking people to buy a few food items for donation as they went about their own shopping. It was fascinating to see who gave-- often elderly, retired people with little money gave the most, whereas many wealthy people and religious people didn't give anything. But at least there was equal representation-- a woman wearing a big gold cross and a veiled Muslim woman both turned up their noses at what we were doing during my volunteer time.

All in all however, it was entirely heartwarming-- we collected probably about 2000 KM worth of donations, in a city in crisis, where many people don't have much money. Personally, I was also really moved by the Dosta! crew-- everyone is studying or working or has kids and other obligations-- and yet they all spent the whole day volunteering their time to do this. We had no idea how much work it would be-- the most tiring part is sorting and counting and dividing into packets all the different types of food after standing all day in a shopping center!

An sidenote-- one of the local politicians used this opportunity to try to get publicity for himself, and sadly someone in the media decided to play along. A candidate for mayor donated some food (he owns a company that sells dried meat-- and which hasn't paid its own employees in three months) and a local journalist waited out front for a long time and then as soon as he came, rushed over and took a photo of him giving the food-- very much as though she had been waiting for him all along! The Dosta! group which organized the whole event is not even mentioned in the article, only this politician. Even worse, this woman is a widow, her husband was a wonderful local poet who died recently, and just two weeks ago she had to close the bookstore that they used to run together. So likely she took a bribe to get this photo-- but she's a single mom, so maybe she was in desperate circumstances herself?

Of course, the final touch to this whole story--- *I* am in the photo!! see article below.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mostar transformed

Someone made a You-tube video with pictures of Mostar from before the war... Required watching for anyone who lives in Mostar now. I knew the city had changed a lot, but I really hadn't imagined what it looked like before... It was less depressing actually for me to see the war photos, because at least the city looks better now than it does then. (For those of you who haven't been to Mostar, compare with the photos of today's Mostar that I posted in November when I first arrived.)

The words at the end say, "Why? Don't let it happen again!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The giver

On Monday, the Mostar DOSTA! movement organized a humanitarian action for the city council members of Mostar. Because they have refused to pass the city budget, they also are without salaries for the last 3 months (as are all city employees, including fire fighters and teachers in the school for special needs). The motto of the action was: "what's important is not what you give, but that it's from the heart!"

Activists stood in three locations in the city and collected messages and gifts from citizens. Below are some of the messages people wrote. All the messages were presented to the city council members at the assembly meeting on Tuesday. (Gifts included: a broken watch, a textbook on "What is a market economy?", and 5 pfennigs for "kave/kahve/kafe" [the Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian versions of the word coffee])


Dear Sirs:
I take this opportunity to send you a tea bag of UVIN-H tea, that you wouldn't need to interrupt the assembly three times in one hour to take bathroom breaks. In order that this wouldn't happen again, I recommend to you UVIN-H tea which can help your urinary tract and enable you to "hold it" during the course of the assembly. Everything for your health.
--Your (dis)obedient bum


This is a land of hatred! We need to cleanse BH of all the Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs and similar hypocritical "actors" and move in normal people with healthy minds who want good things for this country, not the eternal "who is who and what is what"! Above all we are human beings and we need to stop this nonsense and roll up our sleeves to help other people. Above all, we are human beings. As Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Love, not hated! Because it's ENOUGH!


My name is J**** D**** and I want to show you the 200 KM receipt for my child's monthly medicine. (receipt enclosed)


To our dear members of City Council. I want to support you in this time of recession because I am aware that the recession hits hardest those who have the most. I, like most people, have nothing, so this hellish recession doesn't affect me. When you have nothing, you can't have less! I want to thank you for the excellent anti-recession measure which you secured for us against this threat which from the West. You put your back into it and took all concern for our finances on yourselves. I hope that you will prevail over this recession, continuing to drive good cars, eat in good restaurants, sleep in expensive hotels, take your mistresses to the sea, and keep all the secrets which a good city councilor must keep to himself. All the best to you, and whatever else to the people. The people don't know any better, and it's best for you this way. Excuse my bad handwriting and writing mistakes, but I am not highly educated, I can't do any better.. maybe someday, if I end up in Vienna, like your children.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dosta! stikes again...

The press statement for this latest action (my translation):

Dosta! Mostar: I dreamed last night that you weren't there...

Pokret Dosta! Mostar once again warns the city council members that they are responsible for this months-long crisis in the government, that they have come to their position by the will of the voters, who can remove them from these positions in the same manner!

The city council members and candidates for mayor are comfortably "playing politics" from their armchairs, smug and content, while our children sit hungry in unheated schools and citizens for months now have not received their salaries because of their mistreatment.

Members of City Council, we are fed up with your nationalist demogogery, which you use to cover up your own irresponsibility! This city needs concrete plans and a program for economic, social and cultural progress, and not calculations based on nationalism. We are fed up with your false democracy, whose sole goal is your own material security, while Mostarians have lived for years surrounded by ruins in an aggressive, divided society.

True democracy requires accountability and transparency before the public in the work of elected representatives and institutions, and not inter-party bickering and underhanded games.

Therefore, we are demanding:

That you stop these "endless mayoral games" which are destroying this city and immediately start the procedures for adopting the city budget for 2009!

That the proposed candidates for mayor state concrete programs and outlines which they aim to carry out in the next four years and that they take responsibility for realizing these plans!

That you implement a public discussion about the current situation in the city, a discussion in which to stand before the citizens of Mostar and take responsibility for your (non) accomplishments to date.

That local and national media bring to their programs those who are responsible for this situation and confront them with the direct questions and commentary of citizens who are harmed by these scandalous "politics"!

The DOSTA! Movement invites citizens of Mostar to join in demanding that Mostar finally become a normally functioning city! If the City Council is not presently able to fulfill these demands, we invite citizens to change the current government!

The DOSTA! Movement - Mostar


Abrasmedia photos and press statement in local language

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Powers that Be

A group of activists in Mostar, from the group DOSTA! (meaning: Enough!) late last night put up posters all over town to protest the inefficiency of the city government, which for the last 5 months has stalled on appointing a new mayor and thus has not adopted a city budget. The two sides (Croat and Bosniak) refuse to do what is right for the good of the city, because their first priority is protecting their own financial and political interests. I love it when people protest peacefully! when they decide that it is their responsibility as citizens who love their country to press for change.

O Say can you sing?

Thirteen years after the end of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, lyrics for the new national anthem have finally been agreed upon. (Up until this point, an instrumental version of the anthem was always played instead.) The committee for selection of the text considered 329 other possibilities but the 30,000 KM prize for the winning authors was given for the lyrics below.

Ti si svjetlost duše
Vječne vatre plam
Majko naša zemljo Bosno
Tebi pripadam

Divno plavo nebo
U srcu su tvoje rijeke
Tvoje planine

Ponosna i slavna
Krajina predaka
Živjećeš u srcu našem

Pokoljenja tvoja
Kazuju jedno:
Mi idemo u budućnost

My approximate translation:
You are the brightness of the soul,
An eternal flame of fire,
Mother, our land Bosnia,
I belong to you.

The beautiful blue sky
of Herzegovina,
In (our) heart are your rivers
and your mountains.

Proud and glorious
the borders of our ancestors.
You will live in our heart

Your generations
say as one,
We go into the future

These lyrics don't really make sense in English... I'm told it doesn't make sense in Bosnian either! There is much complaining about the artistic quality (or lack thereof) of these 30,000 KM lyrics.

Here's a link if you want to hear the hymn being sung:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Patria Mia

I recently watched a fascinating documentary, Patria Mia, produced by the same production house I mentioned in my previous post, pro.ba. The filmmaker follows the story of several Chinese immigrants-- a shopowner, an accupuncturist and most closely follows the life of a girl who sings turbo folk, a kind of very cheesy Serbian/Balkan music with inane lyrics about "love" and same-sounding, bland tunes-- actually, very reminiscient of much of mainland Chinese pop music in in those ways! The filmmaker uses the experience of these immigrants as a contrast with her experience, and the experience of many others in the Balkans, as refugees in other parts of Europe, and of course it was striking to me as a foreigner living here. The immigrants asserted that language learning was the most difficult aspect of their integration into Bosnian society and even the girl singer, who spoke Serbian very well, had to practice to properly pronounce the lyrics she was singing, especially the Rs. That was a bit sad to me as well, because I could see that for Balkan viewers some of the humor of the film is related to the mispronunciation of Bosnian words by these immigrants and the strange sound of their language. As a senior in college I spent a week in Athens studying the immigrant experience of Chinese people there and watching the film found many of the same issues...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Night at the Movies

Last night was the Mostar premiere of a new Bosnian film called The Nightguards (Cuvari Noci). The director and actors even came to Abrasevic to speak about the film and answer questions. The production company behind the film is pro.ba, a Sarajevo-based production house for documentaries and more artsy films. We showed another film by pro.ba in November, Snow (Snijeg). I was struck by how similar the two films felt-- slow paced, nuanced, character driven with an ensemble cast, reminiscent of Altman films, although a bit more spare (perhaps due more to lack of resources than conscious choice.) An obvious difference between the two is that Nightguards features an all male cast (the only female actress is present only as a voice over the phone) whereas Snow's cast is almost entirely female and the director is a woman as well. Snow is more emotional and dramatic whereas Nightguards is more ironic and humorous, but these moods are conveyed through very similar cinematography with long shots and natural lighting.

These films present a drastic contrast to most of the other Bosnian post-war-not-set-in-war films I have seen (Gori Vatra, Grbavica, Tesko je Biti Fin, etc), with their black humor, farcical elements and violence. They remind me more of Fifth Generation films from China (admittedly, this is likely due to the fact that 5th Gen are the only films I have studied and know about-- I briefly considered throwing in a reference as well to Italian neo-realism but I don't know anything about it!), which are similarly slow paced, with little dialogue and beautiful spare cinematography. They are similar to in that 5th Generation filmmakers were the first ones to make films in China after the trauma of the Cultural Revolution and Bosnian filmmakers today are still dealing with the trauma of the war, a difference being that Chinese filmmakers faced serious issues of government censorship, whereas it seems to me (although maybe this isn't accurate) that Bosnian auteurs have more freedom of expression, although they still mostly funded by the government. These Chinese filmmakers in the end grew to become more commercial (um, plot driven) while still preserving the artistic element (in my opinion), but new filmmakers like Zhang Jiake emerged and created more gritty, urban portraits... Where will Bosnian film go from here? I can't wait to see.
PS: for those who read my post about Bosnian dentists... when the main character in the film is sick, he begins to drink, you guessed it, tea. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Survival of the Fittest: A Comparative Approach

I've recently starting getting into aerobics DVDs. Some girls from church andI meet a couple of times a week to sweat for an hour in the quest to become more strong, healthy and beautiful. We have used both a British fitness DVD by British TV celebrity Davina McCall and a Croatian DVD by Renata Sopec. I was struck by the differences between the two DVDs and what it says about culture and views of women.

The Davina DVDs are characterized by ironic, self deprecating humor, which is sometimes silly, involving prat falls. The tone is encouraging, emphasizing the difficulty of the workout and the need to press ahead. Davina tells her own motivational story about getting her figure back after having two kids. There's always an easier version provided for each workout.

The Renata DVDs are very straightforward, without jokes or inspirational story, although they are shot in unbelievably beautiful settings-- by the beach, in a field surrouded by candles, etc. The inspiration is presumably provided by Renata herself, who is, for lack of a better word, hot. She has long blonde hair, a perfect tan and a Barbie-like figure, with her chest falling out of her workout top. Davina, although very pretty, is much more normal-looking, with medium-length brown hair and more modest workout clothes.

And interestingly, the DVDs of Davina are copyrighted, cannot be copied and play only on region 2 dvd players. Pirated DVDs of Renata's workouts can be found on every street corner.

I leave my readers to make their own deductive conclusions based on the above information. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

New videos from Mostar

This fall I had the opportunity to work with some teenagers at a very wonderful youth center in Mostar, called Novi Most, and make some My Hero videos with them. These teenagers chose Ben and Dijamant as their heroes, and you can view the videos the teenagers made here:


(on this page you will also see a video I made about Milenko, another hero living in Mostar, plus some great concerts and events going on where I work, at OKC Abrasevic. These videos can also be viewed on the Abrasevic portal, www.abrasmedia.info in the video section.)