Documentary Uses Hague Archives to Explore Bosnian Wartime Violence

‘Silence of Reason’, a documentary made by Kumjana Novakova that uses Hague Tribunal archive material to explore how women were subjected to brutal violence during the Bosnian war, has its world premiere at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

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An image from the film. Photo courtesy of Kumjana Novakova.

‘Silence of Reason’, a haunting documentary by director Kumjana Novakova that sheds light on the harrowing experiences of women who suffered sexual violence and torture in rape camps in the Foca area during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is being screened for the first time at the Sarajevo Film Festival on Tuesday.

The film highlights the groundbreaking legal proceedings at the UN war crimes court in The Hague, marking the first international criminal tribunal case to secure convictions for rape as a form of torture and for sexual enslavement as a crime against humanity – a crucial development in international justice and human rights.

Using visual archive materials and first-hand testimonies, ‘Silence of Reason’ has a fluid structure that defies traditional narrative constraints, inviting audiences to reflect on the resilience of the human spirit and the pursuit of justice in the face of unimaginable suffering.

“I would like to imagine that each film is one more chance for us to work against the violence and absurdity of our times, the system, the unjust world we are part of,” said Novakova.

She explained that with the film, she wanted to “work against the idea of our past as a hierarchical, linear storyline of victims and oppressors”

Produced by Medea and Pravo Ljudski and in partnership with BIRN, ‘Silence of Reason’ is intended as a poignant reminder of the atrocities committed during times of conflict and a testament to the strength of survivors who have the courage to tell their stories.

The documentary was selected for the competition programme for Best Documentary at this year’s 29th Sarajevo Film Festival.

Its production was supported by a BIRN grant for journalists, artists, historians and civil society activists covering topics related to the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and domestic courts in former Yugoslav countries that dealt with war crimes cases.


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