Dir: Pepe Danquart , Mirjam Quinte
125 min., 35mm, 1:1.37, b/w, WP
Produktion: ARTE, Quinte Filmproduktion, Blueberry Films, Goethe Institut. Kamera: Michael Hammon. Musik: Michel Seigner. Montage: Mona Bräuer. Kommentartext: Klaus Theweleit. Produzentin: Mirjam Quinte. Postproduktion: Thomas Kufus.
Uraufführung: 16.2.1997, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films.
Verleih BRD: Ventura Film, Rosenthaler Straße 38, D-10178 Berlin. Tel: (49-30) 283 65 30, Fax: (49-30) 283 65 33.
Weltvertrieb: Quinte Filmproduktion, Konradstr. 20, D-79100 Freiburg, Tel: (49-761)702 563, Fax: (49-761) 701 796.
Sun 16.02. 16:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Sun 16.02. 19:30 Delphi Mon 17.02. 10:00 Arsenal Tue 18.02. 17:00 Akademie der Künste
Mostar, summer 1994. Two civil wars in three years have destroyed the city. At first Croatians and Muslims defended the city against the Serbians, then Croats fought against the Muslims. The West is now Croatian and Muslims are enclosed in the East. There is an invisible wall between them, a border crossing called Checkpoint Charlie.
Peace at the border is deceptive, fragile and exists only due to international pressure. The European Union appointed social democrat Hans Koschnick as the city's general administrator. He was given the task of supervising the reconstruction of the destroyed community during a period of two years. Water, lighting, electricity are needed, a new bridge across the Neretva, in short, a city in which people can move freely, where nobody asks whether someone is Serb, Muslim or Croat.
Mirjam Quinte and Pepe Danquart accompanied Koschnick during his time in Mostar. Their documentary NACH SAISON reports the attempt to reanimate the city, in black and white, in colour and newsreel format. Images and photos look fifty years old, which is belied by the film's HipHop music and marksmen called ,Sniper' coming straight out of Hollywood films.
The old, undamaged Mostar appears in NACH SAISON only as ancient history. The city symbol is the four hundred year old bridge Stari Most which used to connect both halves of the city and its inhabitants. People remember it fondly, smiling sadly as if to say: We didn't know then what war meant. All that has remained of the old bridge are two ruined towers, one on each river bank, connected by an unstable suspension bridge which inspires no confidence.
When people begin to recreate their lives, their happiness is always marred by a shadow. A party, people dancing, three girls take a leisurely stroll to the Neretva. For a short while war is forgotten. Memory returns, however, with just a word, a gesture, an incision into everyday life. While the rubble is being cleared, ethnic cleansing goes on in other parts of the town. The division of Mostar is reinforced. Postwar time is prewar time.
Politicians have signed accords - it is ,postwar time'. In Bosnia.
A time when war correspondents leave and world interest fades. A time when people slowly awaken from a nightmare, trying to understand, clear the rubble, rebuild their ,former lives'. For this Mostar was supposed to receive financial and political support from the European Union (EU). Hans Koschnik was appointed temporary EU administrator. We wanted to accompany him, his work, the city and its people on this path towards ,normality' with our camera. We gave our project a preliminary title: After the War.
It wasn't to be. The victims had lost all hope, the perpetrators were not willing to give up. In this tense atmosphere, a permanent threat of war, emotions intensify unbearably: Fear, joy, hatred, hope, despair all occur simultaneously. People find it hard to express themselves because the mind simply cannot comprehend events. They told us: "Why don't you film what you see?" Finding images, however, proved to be just as difficult. We had two years to do it. An excellent prerequisite for making this film.
Hans Koschnik also had two years time - much too little. Too little time to check nationalist dreams in West-Mostar. Koschnik had put his hope into a different model for Mostar: not only to use the military and diplomacy to do politics, but also economic and humanitarian means. He succeeded in some respects but nevertheless failed fundamentally. European diplomacy simply didn't have the tenacity to stick to this path.
(Mirjam Quinte, Pepe Danquart, January 1997)
Thomas Heise: Your film gives the impression that another war in Mostar isn't far off. Did you get that sense when you first visited the city in 1994?
Mirjam Quinte, Pepe Danquart: On the contrary. When the European Union arrived, everyone was euphoric. People thought life would take a turn for the better. We believed we would be documenting the reconstruction of Mostar. The trouble was that each faction had a different concept. Croatians wanted a Croatian Mostar, Muslims hoped for a reunited Mostar, and the world at large believed Mostar could be the model and guarantor of peace in Bosnia. None of this was realized. The sequence of events became increasingly unclear to everyone. All of a sudden people understood: life as it was before the war had disappeared forever. It is important to note the difference between war and civil war. The latter produces fault lines which run straight through families. Once a civil war has ended, everyone will continue to remember the perpetrators and their crimes. Everyone will know the neighbour who has killed the brother, the class mate who has killed the mother. This knowledge cannot be wiped off the agenda. Forgiveness is almost impossible - that's why every attempt to forge a new community in Mostar has failed utterly.
M.Q., P.D.: It means that the gap between nationalities and religious groups is greater than ever before. Ethnic cleansing happened continually in Mostar. There are new cases every day - almost exclusively Muslims who get chased out of the Croatian sector of Mostar. In fact, peace did not do away with ethnic divisions, instead it reinforced them.
Th.H.: The division of Mostar into an Eastern and a Western sector is reminiscent of Berlin. The reasons for the division, however, are very different. In Berlin, two world powers divided the population without asking their consent. In Mostar, the population took the initiative.
M.Q., P.D..: Indeed, the situation is reversed. Furthermore, there is no physical wall in Mostar. It is invisible but as hermetically sealed as the real wall in Berlin used to be. The border crossing between both parts is called Checkpoint Charlie. The latter seems to be a Cold War mascot.
Th.H.: Previously, the symbol of Mostar wasn't a border crossing but the 400 year old bridge Stari Most leading across the Neretva river in the center of town. Why did you use this suspension bridge as a central motif in your film?
M.Q., P.D..: Bridges connect - when bridges are destroyed, when rivers become borders, then you have war. All seven bridges have been destroyed. Previously the old bridge symbolized the co-existence of different nationalities. Its destruction, its absence has now become a symbol of war. During Koschnick's first year in office a central question was whether he would rebuild the old bridge. He didn't - other plans took priority. However, even if he had rebuilt it, the bridge would have been very different. It wouldn't have had the same emotional, connecting power.
Th.H.: At the beginning of your film Koschnick is a social democrat, a German ,reconstruction machine', someone who rolls up his sleeves and makes things happen. He is optimistic to the point of being naive. When the EU drops him, when his vision of an open Mostar fails, he seems to crumble. In the last scene he looks like a man with a broken heart.
M.Q., P.D..: The turn of events deeply affected him. To this day he has not got over this disappointment. At the beginning it was felt that Koschnick was the perfect man for the job. He is a very humane politician, he has always remained close to the people. The Mostar commission was a great personal challenge for him, not a career move. Reunification of the city gradually became a personal issue for him. It wasn't the assassination attempt which hurt him most, it was the diplomats' breach of promise. They had given him carte blanche - and then they dropped him when he not only wanted to reconstruct the city but also take first steps towards a democratic, undivided Mostar which allowed its citizens to move about freely.
Th.H.: Apart from Koschnick you visited a number of other protagonists over a period of two years. They all go through incredible changes. In particular, I am thinking of Enisa who struck me with her black, tough humour. Half a year later she experiences a breakdown. Memory has returned - as if snipers' bullets had struck her with delayed effect.
M.Q., P.D..: People developed a high tolerance for war. They got used to grenades and death as experiences of daily living. Consequently, some people felt the full impact of war half a year later, well into peace time. As if events were only fully comprehensible once they had become memory. For Enisa, this was especially painful once she realized her life in Mostar could never be normal again. Her husband is Serb, she is Muslim, her daughter married a Croat. How could life return to normal in a city where ethnic cleansing continues? In the Eastern part of Mostar there is an additional problem. That part of the city is cut off, isolated, a prison. One day is like the next, you can't plan for the future.
Th.H.: Even though much of your film was filmed on video, the final version is in 35 mm format and black and white. Why black and white?
M.Q., P.D..: We didn't want to show images of war in colour. There was always the danger that these pictures of a ruined land would look like holiday snaps. Despite all the destruction Mostar still has a charm which detracts from the horror. Secondly, we wanted to follow on from the old newsreels and say: even if it looks like it was filmed 50 or 60 years ago, they are contemporary pictures, at the end of the 20th century. It looks like World War II, but people listen to HipHop music and wear jeans. We wanted to create a bridge into the past. We often felt that history is repeating itself, that people don't learn from their mistakes. We even considered calling the film Piaffe, a term in dressage when the horse moves without changing position. There is no way forward.
Mirjam Quinte was born in 1952 and studied communications in Freiburg. She was one of the founders of the Medienwerkstatt Freiburg in 1978. Since then she has worked as a director, camera woman and producer for documentaries.
1981: Paßt bloß auf (Be careful). 1983: Die Bankrotterklärung (The Declaration of Bankrupty). 1984: Ein Wort kann eine Karikatur sein - Friede (A Word Can be a Caricature - Peace). 1986: Geisterfahrer - eine utopische Kolportage (Ghostdrivers - Utopian Rubbish). 1988: Schatila - auf dem Weg nach Palästina (Shatila - On the Way to Palestine). 1991: ... und andere Ergüsse (...and other effusions). 1993: Phoolan Devi - Rebellion einer Banditin (Phoolan Devi - Rebellion of a Gangster). 1994 - 97: Nach Saison.
Pepe Danquart was born in 1955 and studied communications in Freiburg/Breisgau, he was also one of the founding members of the Medienwerkstatt Freiburg. From 1978 he worked as a director and author for documentaries, docudramas and feature films. Since 1991 he has been living and working in Berlin.
1981: Paßt bloß auf (Be Careful); 1982: S'Weschpennäscht (The Wasp's Nest). 1983: Die lange Hoffnung (The Long Hope). 1984: Ein Wort kann eine Karikatur sein - Friede (A Word Can Be a Caricature - Peace). 1986: Geisterfahrer (Ghost Drivers). 1987: Schatila. 1988: Borinage-Das verratene Land (Borinage-The Betrayed Country). 1989/90: Daedalus. 1993: Schwarzfahrer (The Fare Dodgers). 1993/94: Phoolan Devi. 1995: Old Indians Never Die. 1996: Elsaß (Alsace). 1994-97: NACH SAISON.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.