Whatever I go on to do, I will always be grateful for the opportunity that Robert Miller and Henry Singer gave me on their mammoth project “The Trial of Ratko Mladic”. They took a punt on someone straight out of film school with no relevant broadcast credits and gave me a job. But they also went a step further – they asked my opinion on the film as it was being cut. And a step further than that – they listened to my opinion. And another step – they actually valued it. They didn’t have to do any of that but they did. With the wealth of experience they have and the standard of films they’ve made they could have made this film any way they wanted to. And yet they did it without ego, motivated only by making the best film they possibly could. I’m so glad that they made time to embrace my perspective as both a Bosniak and a young filmmaker.
It’s hard for documentary filmmakers, even at the top of their game, producing these kinds of docs to make a living. I’ve seen the labour of love that this film was. And despite it all Rob and Henry, and Justine and Ida and everyone else making hard financial and personnel decisions made space for me. Nothing stands out to me more than their decision to take me to shoot on the trial verdict in November ’17. A huge, historic occasion for many Bosnians. From prior experience, I know how expensive hotels in The Hague are. I also know just how hard it is to get accreditation from the U.N courts for crew members. All that before payment and expenses are taken into account. And despite all that, they took me along on this, their final shoot. I helped carry cameras and backed up the rushes in the evening – but they could easily have done all this without me. And yet, they took a punt and a financial hit to take me – because they knew that the verdict meant so much to me that I approached them and asked if I could go.
As passionately as I feel about this film, what I’m getting at isn’t about the film at all. It’s about people. It’s about leadership. It’s about supporting youth and granting opportunities to those who desperately want them even when it might be tough to do so. This film has been pivotal to my development as a filmmaker and my work on it ended up leading directly onto the job I’m in now. I hope other experienced filmmakers are inspired to use their films to give fresh blood a chance – in particular, to those for whom the films matter the most – those that hail from the group about whom the film is about. Whether, like me, that is a Bosnian working on a film about Bosnia or a shipbuilder’s son or daughter working on a film about shipbuilders – I am a big advocate of relevant representation in film crews. I can’t speak for them but I hope that Rob and Henry would agree that my unique perspective as a Bosnian was helpful to them and that the film got a small sliver of what I got out of it, from me. It’s a two-way street and I feel like more of this type of representation can only serve to enrich and improve a film.
Thanks Rob, Henry, Justine and Ida for allowing me to be part of your film. I’ll carry the experience with me always. If I never work on another film again I’ll be content in the knowledge I was able to contribute to this. As a Bosnian, I can tell you; this is far, far more than a documentary and I’m beyond privileged to have been able to work on it. This was more than a job. It was history. It was therapy. It was hard but it also mattered so very deeply to me. I hope others follow suit and come to know that making ‘risky’ hires of people starting out and people with skin in the game can make an important impact – both for the film and for the career, and life, of that person. Far more than it ever could to the ‘safe’ hires and experienced hands with far less personal stake in the subject
For those of you who want to watch the film, here’s a link on iPlayer. For a few more words about the film itself, scroll down a little bit as I wrote a post in November after I first watched it.