Protesters are calling for screenings of a new documentary by a Serbian-Canadian filmmaker to be cancelled across Europe, saying the “revisionist” film “whitewashes” war crimes committed during the Bosnian War.
Film director Boris Malagurski announced last month on Twitter the schedule of screenings of his film Republika Srpska: The Struggle for Freedom. Malagurski has worked as a correspondent and host for Russian state media channels RT and Sputnik Serbia.
Republika Srpska became a Serb-run entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the signing of the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia.
From 1992 to 1995, Serb forces led a campaign of ethnic cleansing with a goal of creating a Greater Serbia.
The most notorious case of their war crimes was in Srebrenica, where in 1995, Serb forces under the command of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, killed more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys over the course of a few days. International courts ruled the massacre constituted genocide.
The Canada-based Institute for the Research of Genocide launched an online petition to stop the promotion of the film, saying it “revises the painful history of Bosnia”. It has gathered nearly 30,000 signatures.
“The film promotes the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica,” the institute said in a statement on Saturday. “… It promotes the idea of Greater Serbia, which is constantly tearing Bosnia and Herzegovina apart.”
“And it tries, by all means, to show that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a failed state, promoting the independence of the Rebublika Srpska entity and its unification with Serbia,” it said.
Campaign leader Georgio Konstandi told Al Jazeera that six days of screenings have so far been cancelled in 19 cities in Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium.
“[Malagurski’s] film trailer clearly frames the founding of a genocidal regime as a ‘struggle for freedom’ and a fight against ‘slavery’” Konstandi said. “We would not accept such gross whitewashing of any other genocidal regime.”
“Why should the Bosnian people, who were tortured, massacred and raped by the Republika Srpska authorities, be expected to put up with it?” he asked.
Malagurski told Al Jazeera that the documentary filmed scenes in Srebrenica and noted “the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY] in the Hague concluded, in its verdict, that ‘what happened in Srebrenica constituted genocide,’ in no way negating that fact”.
“It talks about the Serbs’ turbulent history under various empires of the past, but in no way avoids talking about the crimes Serb forces committed during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s,” he said.
“However, none of the mentioned organisations asked to watch the film before engaging in an aggressive campaign to ban the film, in the ‘cancel culture’ manner of the times we live in,” Malagurski added.
Last week the Sarajevo Mayor Benjamina Karic addressed the mayor of Salzburg, Austria, in a letter, alerting him of the film serving as “propaganda”. The screening was later cancelled.
Uputila sam pismo gradonačelniku Salzburga Harald Preuneru, povodom premijere filma “Republika Srpska: Borba za slobodu” koja je zakazana za 31.10.2022. u ovom gradu. pic.twitter.com/6FQuLHxSJM
— Benjamina Karić (@BenjaminaKaric) October 12, 2022
The campaign has spurred lobbied people outside the Western Balkans to also comment. On Saturday, Alaskan standup comedian Chelsea Hart posted a TikTok video of the issue, writing “Fascism is making a comeback in Europe.”
— Chelsea Hart (@chelseahartisme) October 15, 2022
Rulings by the ICTY, including the conclusion that the massacre in Srebrenica constituted a genocide, are regularly denied by Serb politicians in both Bosnia’s Republika Srpska and Serbia, including Banja Luka’s Mayor Drasko Stanivukovic, who welcomed the film’s premiere in Republika Srpska this month.
The city of Banja Luka reportedly financed $15,000 for the production of the documentary.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has for the past 15 years been leading a campaign for the Republika Srpska entity to secede and join Serbia.