CW: Graphic verbal descriptions of violence, war crimes.
A combination of spoken testimonies and images of the places where war crimes occurred 17 years before the film was shot, this experimental documentary is a thriller about a mass grave located in the suburbs of Belgrade, Serbia. In an attempt to uncover, shed a light upon, and give voice to these stories, intentionally buried in silence, the film speaks directly to the sensations, imagination, and emotions of the viewer, in a hypnotic and meditative way.
A word from Tënk
There cannot be a series on the aftermath of war without directly addressing the crimes of war, the people who committed them, and the people who suffered or even survived them. Filmmaker Ognjen Glavonić brilliantly crafts a truly unique piece of experimental cinema that puts a spotlight on the stories of those very people. The only voices that we hear in the film are those testifying, quite literally: they are taken from court transcripts where the crimes described were tried. Those voices describe in harrowing, nuanced detail the architecture of such crimes, of just how many humans it takes to collude and collaborate in order to execute them, as well as to conceal them, afterwards, from the public eye, and quite literally hide the evidence.
Local policemen flushed with unchecked power, excavator operators so sick they are vomiting, truck drivers receiving coded instructions to hidden unknown sideroads, crime scene investigators naively just trying to call the right people to figure out what it is that they’ve found, a mother trying to time her jump off of the back of a truck full of dead bodies, including those of her own four children, in order to save her life and live to tell us this tale, all create a tapestry of horror, collated to images of serene landscapes mostly devoid of human traffic, where these crimes unfolded, allow the viewer to enter into the construction of these most atrocious of all possible acts that humans are capable of.
In Glavonić’s own words: “Silence and ignorance are the most violent parts of human society. The most visible, most tangible ways you can be complicit is to close your eyes, look away, keep quiet, pretend not to know, or not even really want to know.” His film provides us all with an opportunity to see and to hear clearly, breaking the powerful spell of silence with the courage of these voices, and of those who amplify them. It is not hard to see how important this spell breaking is to have modeled for us in this particular revelatory juncture in Canada’s dark history.
Writer, translator, programmer, cinephile
To accompany your viewing, Tënk invites you to read an interview with director Ognjen Glavonić, conducted by Aurora Prelević. Read it here.