Recounting a story about a real-life event can be a challenging and confronting task. Bosnian screenwriter and director, Jasmila Žbanić, took on the challenge of showing the world the violence done to the people of Srebrenica.

Quo Vadis, Aida?‘ tells a story not many of us have heard before of a human tragedy that has been kept in the dark for so long and continues to be denied.

The film follows Aida, a UN interpreter whose hometown is invaded by violent anti-muslim radicals. Portrayed are the struggles she goes through with the life of her entire family in danger and how far she is willing to go to protect them.

The cinematography never shows any explicit violence but is effective in transmitting fear and desperation through the actors’ emotions. The camera follows the characters as they run across the UN camp looking for somewhere to hide. These minimally shot scenes help us understand the present danger Aida and her family are running away from.

The religious undertones in the film also contribute to this narrative. The scene of Aida overlooking an enormous crowd full of her family, friends, and neighbours begging for a spot inside the camp not only intensifies the emotions being felt by the characters, but also draws attention to the religious resemblances that intensify the narrative of the film. The title itself draws parallels to the ancient Christian persecution story in the Bible.

A false sense of security is given at the start of the movie. The camp is portrayed to the audience as a safe haven, but as the story moves on we learn of the institutional failures inside the UN. The UN’s inability to take effective action vastly contributed to the Srebenica Massacre.

Aida hides her family inside the camp, but this turns out to be the wrong choice in the end, as the only male survivors are the ones who seek refuge in the woods. This serves well to amplify the final catharsis of the movie, because we can comprehend Aida’s feelings of regret and loss on a much deeper level. Despite her position inside the UN, Aida is dismissed several times by the men in power around her. Her voice is silent, and her cries of anguish are ignored. At the end of the film, she gains some form of agency. When she goes back to her old home, she says: “I have nothing to lose.” This makes us wonder why did it have to come to this? Why did Aida have to go through all this suffering?

These questions remain unanswered for hundreds of Bosnians, who lost their relatives during the civil conflict, unjustly.

Quo Vadis, Aida?‘ shows a series of unfortunate events that continue to be denied and swept under the rug by those who want to hide the truth. This film is the story of truth, and beyond that, a story about the resilience of women and their fight to be heard.

If you want to watch this film or expand your international film knowledge, check out the Perth Film Festival and its upcoming titles.

Words by Camila Egusquiza

Image from Perth Film Festival

By Pelican Magazine

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