Protesters are calling for screenings of a new documentary by a Serbian-Canadian filmmaker to be canceled across Europe, saying the “revisionist” film “whitewashes” war crimes committed during the Bosnian war.
Film director Boris Malagurski announced on Twitter last month the schedule of screenings for 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-ruled entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia.
From 1992 to 1995, Serbian forces waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing with the goal of creating a greater Serbia.
The most notorious case of their war crimes was in Srebrenica, where in 1995 Serbian forces under the command of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, killed more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in a few days. International courts ruled that the massacre constituted genocide.
The Canada-based Institute for Genocide Research launched an online petition to stop promoting the film, saying it “revises Bosnia’s painful history”. It has gathered almost 30,000 signatures.
“The film promotes the denial of 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 union with Serbia,” it said.
Campaign manager Georgio Konstandi told Al Jazeera that six days of screenings have so far been canceled in 19 cities in Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium.
“[Malagurski’s] The movie trailer clearly frames the founding of a genocidal regime as a ‘fight for freedom’ and a fight against ‘slavery,’” Konstandi said. “We would not accept such gross whitewashing by 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 judgment that ‘what happened in Srebrenica constituted genocide’ and in no way negated this fact”.
“It talks about the turbulent history of the Serbs under various empires of the past, but in no way avoids talking about the crimes committed by Serbian forces during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s,” he said.
“However, none of the organizations mentioned asked to see the film before engaging in an aggressive campaign to ban the film, in the ‘cancellation culture’ way we live in,” Malagurski added.
Last week, Sarajevo mayor Benjamina Karic addressed the mayor of Salzburg, Austria, in a letter warning him that the film served as “propaganda”. The screening was later cancelled.
I sent a letter to the mayor of Salzburg, Harald Preuner, on the occasion of the premiere of the film “Republika Srpska: Struggle for Freedom”, which is scheduled for October 31, 2022. in this city. pic.twitter.com/6FQuLHxSJM
— Benjamina Karić (@BenjaminaKaric) 12 October 2022
The campaign has spurred lobbying of people outside the Western Balkans to comment as well. On Saturday, Alaskan stand-up comedian Chelsea Hart posted a TikTok video of the issue and wrote, “Fascism is making a comeback in Europe.”
— Chelsea Hart (@chelseahartism) 15 October 2022
Decisions by the ICTY, including the conclusion that the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide, are regularly rejected by Serb politicians in both Bosnia’s Republika Srpska and Serbia, including Banja Luka Mayor Drasko Stanivukovic, who welcomed the film’s premiere in Republika Srpska this month.
The city of Banja Luka reportedly funded $15,000 for the production of the documentary.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has campaigned for the past 15 years for the Republika Srpska entity to secede and join Serbia.