“Quo vadis, Aida?” The film, feminism, and growing up in the aftermath of genocide.

Nikola Vučić: An on-screen feminist monument to the Srebrenica genocide victims

Nikola Vučić
Autor 5.2.2021. u 15:42

Nikola Vučić: An on-screen feminist monument to the Srebrenica genocide victims

To speak about the Srebrenica genocide from the point of view of a young man born in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 — the same year the genocide happened — means to speak about a tragedy that marked each and every year of my life growing up.

For years, the topic of the Srebrenica genocide, which was committed by the Serb Republic Army with logistical assistance from Serbia, left around 8,000 killed — mostly boys and men. The genocide has been a subject of an interpretational war where weapons were replaced by ugly words, relativization and a denial of the facts established in court. Many Srebrenica women are still searching for the mortal remains of their sons, husbands, brothers and relatives.

That was the key reason for me to write a review of the film “Quo vadis, Aida?”  by Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić. A review that tries to enrich the contribution the director gave to the process of peacebuilding and dealing with the past, along with my own observations and visions of the future.

Genocide as seen through a woman’s eyes

The film by Jasmila Žbanić, inspired by historical facts from July 11, 1995, is a first-class cinematic achievement. It sparks critical thinking about the past, as well as inspiring thought about a future free of hatred, nationalism or political war threats.

The main character Aida (Jasna Đuričić) is a woman who is going through a tragic experience of fighting for survival alongside thousands of others. This is a drama seen through the “woman’s eyes” of teacher and translator Aida, whose two sons and husband were killed in the war and who returns to Srebrenica after the war. There she resumes her teaching career, working in the school that is now attended by both Serb and Bosniak students.

Trailer – Courtesy of Deblokada production company

The film’s director, Žbanić, authentically tells a tragic, moving and tough story about the gravest crime on European soil since World War II. But, “Quo vadis, Aida?” is not a film of vengeance; this is not a film that tells the story of the Srebrenica genocide in a language of generalization or propaganda, but it speaks the language of truth and hope. It speaks the language of feminist peace engagement that Žbanić is known for in the Balkans, in the postwar period.

Using magnificent expression and images, while defamiliarizing the genre formation; this film fills the blank pages of “the world’s film silence” with details of the genocide that left Srebrenica soaked in the tears of mothers seeking the bones of their family members. The brave women who — despite the epic tragedy of their lives — do not hate but only wish for peace and compassion.

The Power of Imagination

Before I headed to the cinema to see “Quo vadis, Aida?” I was expecting to see violent images of murder, abuse, bloodshed and brutality, but the film contains no such explicit scenes. Žbanić, apparently, wanted to put on the screen the tragedy of July 11, 1995, without relying on the stereotypical filmmaking patterns, and she — in a way — astounded the audience, as she gave a hint of the worst atrocities through various ingenious filmmaking solutions.

Actually, the greatest truth in the film — the truth about the mass killing — was told by a method where what is absent becomes present in the present, i.e., where the explicit scenes of murder are not shown but played out indirectly. It appears that the director’s choice has confirmed the significance of the audience and its participation in the film itself; how important the power of imagination is, thought and participation in understanding the film and out-of-film reality. It was exactly at this level, in my opinion, where the director exceeded the horizon of expectations.

Not only does Bosnia and Herzegovina need this film as much as it needs air. The whole world needed this movie by Jasmila Žbanić to come into existence.

“Quo vadis, Aida?” will remain a lasting feminist, on-screen monument to the victims and survivors of the genocide in Srebrenica. Why feminist? There are many reasons why I am interpreting the feminist significance of Jasmila Žbanić’s film, and the main reason is her choice of a main character who courageously and persistently fights against the war; who points fingers at those responsible; who calls for humanity at the time of its absence; who speaks about a human, while the system emotionlessly speaks about procedures.

And, finally, who chooses the future. A better future for other people’s children— her students. While at the same time preserving the memory of her own children, killed on July 11, 1995, in the Srebrenica genocide.


Nikola Vučić
Autor 5.2.2021. u 15:42