Bad deeds can be recalled so easily, while the humane acts of individuals can be often forgotten. But even in the darkest hours of war, when so much pain and anguish is felt by all sides, the shining bravery of one young man can be an inspiration to so many.
Twenty years ago, soldiers from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) beat to death a young Bosnian Serb Srdjan Aleksić, who was shielding his Muslim friend. Since his brutal killing, Srdjan has been hailed as a hero in towns across the Balkans.
This month, the story of the amateur actor and promising sports star has taken a fresh turn, as a Serbian film based on his life receives critical acclaim and standing ovations at festival screenings, and Belgrade officials bow to people pressure and agree to name a city street in Srdjan’s honour.
Controversy in the arts is nothing new. Some of our greatest and most creative artists, authors and thinkers have regularly generated debate for their boundary-pushing work and forthright commentary on contemporary issues and the society in which we live. It could even be argued that, as a society, we need our great thinkers to open debate and provoke difficult discussion, even though their forthright comments and opinions might rile the populace and could be met with hostility.
As well as a rising star of central European fiction, Andrej Nikolaidis is seen as a figure who is unafraid of controversy, frequently speaking his mind on deep-rooted issues that can inflame strong sentiment in the Balkan region.
When change is on the cards, the temptation can be to throw out the old and welcome the new, often without considering the consequences. But wiping the slate is not always the best policy, especially in a traditional society where recent trauma has left it wary of change. When bloody conflict has ripped the heart out of a community, people often cling to familiarity as they cope with being forced to accept so much that is new and unsettling in their lives.
Despite its title, Our Man in Iraq is neither a story specifically about war reporting nor a comment on the situation in Iraq. Both feature in this book, especially the shifting sands of journalistic standards, but they are not the main issues addressed here.
Set in Croatia in 2003,
this bestselling book from journalist and award-winning author Robert Perišić is part love story and part satire on identity, using humour, comment and cultural parallels to tackle themes that are as relevant to the recovering Balkan states as they are to the situation in Iraq. Read more
Few films from Serbia have received the support of Human Rights Watch, but a crowd pleasing satire on gay rights and homophobia will represent the country at the organisation’s international film festival in London, this week. The Parade, which has become a festival favourite and has generated impressive box office receipts of around four million euros, portrays the efforts of an unlikely bunch of former fighters from across the ex-YU to protect an Belgrade Pride parade.
The Parade (Parada), from Pretty Village, Pretty Flame director Srdjan Dragojević, uses satire to highlight the level of homophobia in Serbia while pointing out the senselessness of the prejudice and the violence that often goes with it. On its release in Serbia, the Serbian Ministry of Education and Science even recommended that Parada should be screened in schools to stimulate debate and promote greater tolerance.