BIRN’s Kosovo War Film Wins US Festival Award

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BIRN’s film The Unidentified, investigating the commanders responsible for brutal attacks during the Kosovo war, was given the best short documentary award at the South East European Film Festival in LA.

The Unidentified, which names the Serbian officers who ordered attacks on Kosovo villages around the town of Pec/Peja in 1999 and those involved in the cover-up operation to hide the victims’ bodies, was awarded the best short documentary prize at the South East European Film Festival in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Nemanja Babic, the director of the film, told the audience at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills that work on the film continued for two years as the production team struggled to persuade all those involved, both perpetrators and victims, to give interviews for the documentary.

“It took us months to convince a lot of people to appear in this documentary. Some of the witnesses first said yes and then they would change their mind once we pressed ‘play’ on the camera,” Babic said.

“This prolonged the whole process of filming, but in the end the work paid off and this prize also inspires us to continue working on this topic,” he added.

The Unidentified takes viewers back to 1999, to the villages of Ljubenic, Cuska, Pavljan and Zahac near Pec/Peja in Kosovo, where Serbian fighters killed more than 118 Albanian civilians. Their bodies were either burned or removed, and some of them were later found in mass graves at the Batajnica police training centre near Belgrade in 2001.

The trial of 11 fighters alleged to have been involved in the killings – 10 of them accused of being direct perpetrators – is still ongoing in Belgrade.

In February 2014, nine of them were sentenced to a total of 106 years in jail but an appeals court annulled the verdict last March, calling it “incomprehensible and contradictory” and sent the case for retrial.

The film had its international premiere at last year’s Sarajevo Film Festival and has been screened at various other festivals and institutes, in Paris, New York, Washington DC, Zagreb, Belgrade, Prizren, Pristina, Tirana, Maribor and Los Angeles.

The Unidentified will also be screened for the first time in Belgrade on May 14 at this year’s BELDOCS film festival.