The story of “pre-Christianity” ends in massacres and concentration camps

Štefica Galić
Autor/ica 1.12.2018. u 10:03

The story of “pre-Christianity” ends in massacres and concentration camps

Oliver Frljić is one of the most important figures of European theatre. He was born in Travnik, currently lives in Zagreb, where you can rarely find him. He is producing works throughout Europe. He is also the author of perhaps the most important theater pieces after the end of the war, for which he was rewarded with tens of prizes: “Bakhe”, “Danton’s death”, “Father on the official path”, “Cowardice”, “The 1920s letter” “,” Murder of Zoran Djindjic “,” Croatian War of Independence “,” Our Violence and Your Violence “,” Klątwa “. His messages achieve goals. Wether he works in Vienna,ZagrebSplit, Belgrade, Rijeka, the guard keepers of national and religious sancities get seizures. This leads to media lynch which sends out all the guard keepers from their armchairs, pubs and betshops searching for Frljić. They intruded into his apartment, locked him down in the theatre, street attacks he doesn’t even count for years now. The public still hasn’t quited down about the play ‘Our violence and your violence’, which was marked with threats, attacks, prohibition of its screening, but also with magnificent victory of Sarajevo audience over the censorship and fear, but Frljić still remains in the midst of attacks.

After successful premier show of the play ‘Klatwa’, which you directed in Poland and which raises quite uncomfortable questions about pedophilia in Church, but also for the first time, not just in Poland, it questions life of Pope Ivan Pavao II. During an intervju, Oliver told us how lives of his actors in Poland are under a threat. While you look at gentle, exhausted, weary man you ask yourself can it resist constant humiliation done by the bearers of evil which by attacking that man, attack thought and secular state, and you now that man won’t give up and that he will in seven days in some other theatre raise a point and topic which other’s don’t even take into consideration.

In this intervju, Oliver speaks about rage directed at him, how to not give up under constant pressurers, regarding his last play, heroic audience in Sarajevo and continuity of Croatian politics towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Razgovarala: Štefica Galić

Polish nationalists want your deportation from Poland and criminal prosecution because of play ‘Kletva’. What is it that hurt gentle nationalists in Poland?

They were hurt by the fact that one play, one thetre, one ensamble and me said no to clericalised society. They were hurt because someone dared to publicly speak out some well-known facts about Pope John Paul II – that he did not respond adequately to the problem of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and to his views on abortion and birth control.. They were hurt because someone did not automatically exclude critical thinking when he heard the words “church” or “state”. When we are talking about state, Croatia is on a good way to become bigger Pland than Poland. Krleža wrote this long time ago: ‘We are Antemurale Christianitatis, they were saying not only to us, but to all catholic misery both on Donau and Visla’. That complex of being an outskirt of Europe and frustrations that are cured by constant repetition that we have always been and forever will be Antemurale Christianitatis, is something that describes indentity of both Polish and Croatian society. The last time, when Croatia tried to defend Christianity was during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this try ended with formation of war camp for Bosniaks in western Herzegovina and with the masacre in Ahmići.

It did not take a long time for Croatian nationalists to hear a cry for help from their brothers in Poland, so what I am interested is are they also insisting on your deportation from Croatia? Does such a country for free-minded intelectuals and artists exist?

Croatian nationalists, God bless them, are that illiterate that even Google Translate couldn’t help them to correctly translate the title of my play. Dear and their friendly Internet bilges, the title of the play isn’t ‘excommunication’ but ‘Curse’. But let’s leave our Google Translate polyglots and similar intellectual geniuses alone with their nationalistic complacency. There are fewer countries in Europe which give space to criticism which develops develops performativity in a wider social context.

. It turned out again that democracy has no mechanisms to stop fascism – on the contrary, contemporary European Fascism has just given democracy the legitimacy. Another form of political representation should be seriously contemplated, but I’m afraid it’s too late for that.

For years you have been exposed to the opression of nationalists and conspirators, regardless of whether you criticize Serb, Croat, Bosniak, Polish, Slovene or German nationalist myths. These things do not end up in “negative criticisms” but your life is literally endangered. How do you deal with all this for years?

I will say, “All right, thanks for asking.

How did your art manage to achieve something Viktor Ivančić would call a task of thought-to provoke discomfort?

The task of art is not to appeal to the social community, but to point to her problems.. You can do that one way or the other. Of course, petty bourgeoisie doesn’t consider my work an art. They are accostumed to the type of art that doesn’t point out problems, because current state of things is alright to them. Current state of things serves their interests-why would they change it? I have spent so much energy and time explaining that art is some sort of transgression that goes against certain societal norms. If there is structural discrimination-which is normalised or goes unnoticable-task of art is denormalisation of that regularity.

The play “Our Violence and Your Violence” also caused a fierce reaction. The MESS Directorship claps past the clerical imposition of a theater repertoire and banned the play for the public.

However, Sarajevo audience, almost by force entered and watched the play. How important was this victory of Sarajevo audience for you personally?

 That was the first and the last time in my theatrical career that one audience literally fought and ran for their right to see the show. This is another proof that Sarajevo, despite all its problems, is a unique city.. Do you think that audience from Zagreb would do the similar thing?

 You also signed Jahorina declaration, which seeks to stop conservative revolution. Can Bosnian and Herzegovinian society resist all three nationalisms, a Serb, a Croat, and a Bosniak, who at all costs wants to be a copy of two older nationalisms?

I unfortunately, think that it can’t. Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which should be responsible for creating the social system of values, create nationalistic molds, so today we have kids born after the war which hold natinalism as a core value and an identity determinant. How can a society in which there is no consensus about some of the biggest crimes committed in Europe after the Second World War – Srebrenica, for example. The sad fact is that the Bosniak people failed to resist nationalism and found political representatives who did not insist on a civic, but ethnocentric model.

You were personally affected, as someone borni n Travnik, by the ideas of “human relocation” and ethnically clean territories. What do you think about the rebirth of that political philosophy present in current Croatian government which supports further divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I wouldn’t call it a rebirth of that idea. That idea has constantly existed in Croatian political philosophy and on fingers of one hand can you count politicians who dared to speak about it publicly. One of them is of course Vesna Pusić who was the first person in Croatian parliament to say that HDZ’s government was leading the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatian politics built the relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina by privileging one of the three constituent peoples. She never saw BiH as the land of all her citizens.. Otherwise, Croatia wouldn’t be paying disabilitypensions only to members of HVO, but to members of Armija BiH as well. By granting mass citizenships to members of the Croatian people in BiH, HDZ has created a stable voter base that it can always count on.. All these facts cannot be interpreted in any other way, but as interference with the internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Let us not forget that former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic in Mostar, after the riots in 2014, visited only the burnt out permises of the HDZ of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Do you agree with analysts’ estimates that today’s political leadership in the post-Yugoslav region has the capacity for reconstruction of the 1990s conflict?

In my opinion, that conflict has never stopped. It’s just changed the form, from armed conflict, it turned into institutional conflict and it does not seize to last with as equal intensity as it was before the Dayton Agreement.

 Recently, Croatian actors and directors started the initiative ‘we had enough’, is it too late now? Was the last chance for that kind of movement to happen when football supporters surronded the theatre you were chairman of or when the church was setting what kind of posters would be approproate for the theatre play?

They should have had enough in many situations over the past twenty five years ago. No one has had enough when Sedlar was filming ‘Četverored’, and spending tremendous amount of public money to make a two-hour propaganda spot for the HDZ, which in its most dramatic way falsified history and completely suppressed the fact that NDH was the largest death manufactory in this area hurried to establish a concentration camp system itself and introduce racial laws. Much of those who are now shooting the movie have been playing in this movie. was spending large amount of public money to make a two hour propaganda video for HDZ, which in the most shameful way adularated history and completley passed over the fact that NDH was the biggest death factory in this area and that NDH hurried up to set up concentration camps and racial laws. Number of the ones who had enough took a part in that movie. No one has had enough when Vrdoljak & family got public money for the ‘General’. Number of the ones who had enough took part in that movie as well. They are not bothered by the cooperation with the director who was firing people from HTV just because of their nationality.

Is Croatia the country where all societal process are controlled by the Church and Opus Dei?

Catholic Church has controlled in the past and will keep controlling important social precess in the Croatian society. When it comes to the proprotion of the power church holds in Croatia, Vatican treaties serve as evidence for all the privileges church got through them. My play ‘Awakening of spring’, done in 2009. In Zagreb Youth Theatre, talks about this. Although Croatia declares itself to be secular state, it isn’t in practice and no politician has ever deared to tackle with the power of church. You will remember that deceased Ivica Račan even went to the service.

I know you won’t give up on fighting, but how much of physical and psychological strength have you got to keep fighthing against absurd and banality?

 Sometimes I feel like that everything I do is so pointless and that maybe I should move away from here. Situation is only getting worse. I can do my job anywhere. I have no illusions that something can be changed, least of all with the theatre. On the other hand, I still strike my remaining strength into nationalistic walls, which is the spiritual architecture of post-Yugoslav societies. Branko Miljkovic wrote: “‘Who doesn’t know how to listen a son, will listen a storm.?” The song, of course, we did not know how to listen.


Štefica Galić
Autor/ica 1.12.2018. u 10:03