Since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 90s general views and reflections on war have remain inflicted – people tend to follow known narratives of picking a side of the ones that seemed to them as “the good ones”. The selection of films shown in the “Inconvenient Films” festival under the title “Measuring the Temperature of Society” presents a different, less rigid and more personal approach to talking and creating work about war.
“My Own Private War” is a film directed by a Serbian director Lidija Zelović and mainly deals with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Growing up in former Yugoslavia and then leaving the country during the civil war in the early 90s, Zelovic provides a private and honest insight into the war and how it changed her.
The first thing Lidija Zelović sais when introducing her documentary “My Own Private War” is that this is inherently a film about her. Reflection on war is a ubiquitous strategy in documentary making that mostly ends up on the lines of conventional severity, hero-praising and grief. Zelović instead creates a sensitive and powerful journey through revisiting narratives that seemed, at one point, obsolete. Her film, therefore, aims to find what she herself calls “honesty” when it comes to war.
Zelović constructs the narrative of her film almost as a vivid diary of memories, family and friends’ visits and testimonies and staged shots of her literally pondering about herself and the war. There are moments of her hanging out with her son and fragments featuring ABBA songs. The moments that seem rather funny and ridiculous carry the most power and impact within them. It breaks down the linear structure of the film and suddenly strikes with more severity and insight than what you would assume conventional melancholic reflection.
The film appears almost sketchy and is mostly collected from bits of memories and interruptions of her own thoughts on the process of making the film. The thought process and the trouble of making the film are prominently featured and it all becomes a part of the manifestation against the rigidity of opinion-based discourse when it come to war. For instance, it is revealed that the film initially was meant be a collaboration between Zelović and her journalist friend who used to represent Ratko Mladić, a Serbian general held mostly responsible for the atrocities of the war in Bosnia. The film was supposed to feature a dialogue between two completely different sides of the story though after the journalist backed out, Zelović made the film on her own. Zelović used this turn of events in her film as part of the complex narrative. The actual footage of the conversation that lead to the partition of the two initial creators expands the film to a bigger and broader context. The film becomes more personal yet even more universal.
The film is very strongly anti-war and the love and honestly shines through it. Zelović admits that the war greatly changed her but also made her stronger and even more willing to live, love and create. Her film being a private journey of her own war inside of her not only managed to capture the complexity and irrationality of war but also became a freeing and healing experience of her own. Through the journey of making this film, collecting memories, revisiting narratives and stories Zelović came to understand and achieve her own freedom.