‘Four Walls’, a documentary directed by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s deputy editor Dzana Brkanic about the aftermath of attacks on LGBTIQ people in Belgrade and Banja Luka and the intimidation they face in Sarajevo, was premiered at the Sarajevo War Theatre in the Bosnian capital on May 17.
The first part of the film focuses on the situation in Belgrade before EuroPride in September 2022, when authorities decided to ban the event. A restricted event was ultimately held, at which several members of the LGBTIQ community were assaulted. The perpetrators have not been prosecuted.
The film, which is available on BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s YouTube channel, also deals with the spreading of hatred against the community by right-wing groups and football hooligans in the region and activists talking about attacks in Republika Srpska and discriminatory statements by politicians.
“Our idea was to make a documentary that will show how EuroPride was stopped in Belgrade and how the narratives of politicians and right-wing organisations and the misuse of religious organisations are merging in the region to limit human rights, particularly those of this community,” Denis Dzidic, executive director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, said at the premiere.
He explained how the experience of organising the premiere was different from other events held by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it required the presence of the police, security guards, ambulance crews and the fire brigade, unlike when screening other films and holding debates. However, he noted, this is a situation that the Bosnian Pride March organisers face constantly.
Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Sarajevo, whose government supported the production of this film, said that a society that does not respect human rights cannot advance properly.
“Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is sometimes difficult to defend human rights, to advocate for human rights, to advocate for equal rights. It is not just through the funding of organisations, funding of BIRN, as our very important partner, that we are connected with what we are seeing and doing tonight, but also what is happening behind the scenes,” said Waltmans, expressing hope that the film made at least a little contribution to a possible change.
Talking about the film at a panel discussion after the screening, Mirza Halilcevic of the Bosnian Pride March said that all the right-wingers interviewed in the film said more or less the same thing – that they would not allow the marches to take place, that members of LBGTIQ community should be eliminated from the public sphere.
“Just as there is ethnic cleansing, there is also sexual cleansing, as a way of cleaning the society by eliminating all socially unacceptable forms, or sexual forms,” Halilcevic said.
He said that there are still parents who throw their children out of the house for revealing their sexual orientation, or have them locked up in psychiatric facilities for forcible treatment.
The documentary’s director Dzana Brkanic said that she has been mostly dealing with war crime victims’ stories over the past 15 years, but that this story had affected her just as much.
“I have to say that within my social circle, not everyone is well acquainted with the situation of the LGBT community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. People just cast an eye over the information or it simply doesn’t affect them in any way,” said Brkanic.
“My hope was for this film to change the mind of at least one person and that would be a success for me,” she added.
The film was edited by Elvedin Zorlak, Mirza Mrso and Admir Svrakic were the camera operators and Samir Hrkovic the sound engineer. Dino Sukalo provided the music and Semir Mujkic was the editor.