War Is a Male Game
Art, Art + Stories

War Is a Male Game

An Interview with Jasmila Žbanić
Mateusz Demski
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time 11 minutes

Jasmila Žbanić – the Bosnian director of the Oscar-nominated film Quo Vadis, Aida? – talks with Mateusz Demski about the female face of war, inheriting trauma, and making peace with the past.

Mateusz Demski: You dedicate Quo Vadis, Aida? to the women who lost their sons and husbands in the Srebrenica massacre. Why did you feel you had to tell their stories?

Jasmila Žbanić: I’ve been meeting with and listening to stories from many women for many years. I knew them even before I wanted to make this film. Personally, Srebrenica is very close to me and my video works. My graduation film was a documentary – Red Rubber Boots – about a mother searching for her four-year-old son and nine-month-old baby, who were killed and buried in a mass grave. She hopes to find, during the exhumation, the red rubber boots her son was wearing when he disappeared from her life… This pain and the injustice shaped me forever.

After that, I used to visit the Srebrenica Memorial Center. I’ve seen and heard a lot. I’ve met women who lost 40 members of their family: their sons, father, husband, grandfather, brothers, cousins. Three generations are gone. Bosnian Serb forces under the command of Ratko Mladić executed more than 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. It’s hard to imagine the loss of these women. The traumas are really deep and have not healed at all. But at the same time, I saw some unexpected power in these women.

What do you mean by ‘unexpected power’?

T

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You Don’t Exist
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Ljubljana reflections. Photo by Sean Dodson/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Art + Stories, Fiction

You Don’t Exist

An Excerpt from the Novel “Erased”
Miha Mazzini

On 26th February 1992, following its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia and victory in the Ten-Day War, the government of newly-independent Slovenia erased 25,671 people (1.3% of the population) from its register of permanent residents. Overnight, these people – many of whom had lived in Slovenia since early childhood and had Slovenian parents and/or children – lost all of their citizens’ rights, waking up as illegal immigrants in their homeland. This decision by the government was poorly communicated; many of the so-called ‘erased’ had no idea about their new status until they came into contact with the state via a hospital appointment or a border check on a trip to a neighbouring country.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that there has been little public debate in Slovenia about the erased. This is what spurred Miha Mazzini to first write the novel Izbrisana [Erased] about the topic in 2014, followed by a feature film of the same name in 2018. In this excerpt from the as-of-yet unpublished English-language translation of the novel, we meet two of its protagonists – Nikola and Zala – as they have an unpleasant surprise when trying to return to Nikola’s apartment in Ljubljana.

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