European movie theatres are currently screening the film Resolution 819 reconstructing the atrocities perpetrated in and around Srebrenica in July 1995. A French-Polish co-production represents the first attempt to portray the events surrounding genocide of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in and around Srebrenica in July 1995 on the big screen. The film has inter alia won an audience award at 2008 Rome film festival. The film’s title refers to United Nations Security Council Resolution 819 (2003), which declared town of Srebrenica as safe area free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. It is well documented that such status did not preclude the massacre in Srebrenica, which has been widely described as genocide. For example, the ICTY Trial Chamber held in Prosecutor v Krstić “that murders and infliction of serious bodily or mental harm were committed with the intent to kill all the Bosnian Muslim men of military age at Srebrenica” (IT–98–33, 2 August 2001, para. 546, see also ICTY Appeals Chamber, Prosecutor v Krstić, Case No: IT-98-33-A, 19 April 2004, para. 19). The film’s narrative has been put into the limelight not relating to its artistic value but more because of its controversial portrayal of the role of 400 armed United Nations Dutch peacekeeping troops in not preventing the genocide in Srebrenica and peacefully observing how Republika Srpska soldiers were taking men and boys away. The film, in contrast, somehow inaccurately attempts to alter these historical facts by putting forward a more heroic role of the Dutch troops in Srebrenica. The following trailer includes the following inaccurate scene (at 1.27 min).
The above trailer appears to suggest a Dutch solider heroically stood up against the Serb commander’s conduct even though the survivors and historians repeatedly convey the opposite story about the role of Dutch UN peacekeeping troops in the atrocities in and around Srebrenica in July 1995. More specifically, a Bosnian journalist and a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide, Hasan Nuhanović, has in Dani magazine published a comprehensive account of the film’s attempt to misrepresent the historic events (Drugi pišu našu historiju – History as Written by other People). Below are reproduced the most relevant parts of his criticism.
At first I didn’t understand what this was all about but then I became extremely angry. A complete fabrication, depicting something that never happened. In fact it was just what I had always feared, the type of scene that I imagined might have turned up in a film made by someone else, not ourselves.In the shot you can see an UNPROFOR officer in Dutch army uniform (it has to be said that they’ve paid great attention to detail). On his head he is wearing the blue beret and around his waist is the belt that his holster and gun would be attached to. So an image representation and attitude that would impress the ordinary spectator with no background knowledge. And this is why! Here is another hero! Except this one never existed. It never happened.
In fact, during those few days in July 1995 none of the soldiers or officers belonging to the Dutch UNPROFOR contingent at Potočari ever wore that uniform outside the base. And the fact is that they didn’t wear uniform, all the Dutch soldiers who went outside the base (for any reason) wore shorts, T-shirts and blue baseball caps with the UN badge. None of them carried arms because they had been ordered to leave them behind on the base “in order not to provoke the Serbs in any way”. At the same time all the Dutch soldiers inside the base who had any contact with the 5000-6000 Bosniak refugees were fully equipped with helmets, bulletproof vests and firearms. It was the Dutch (not the Serbs) who around midday on 13 July 1995, wearing uniforms like the one worn by the actor in the film, ordered all the Bosniaks to leave the UNPROFOR compound and delivered them into the hands of the Serb soldiers who were waiting for them outside the camp gate. All the boys and young men were forced to leave the base under escort and then killed.
The chapter on Srebrenica genocide remains open due to a number of diffrent reasons. It is hoped that any attempts to fabricate historical facts relating to the atrocities committed in around Srebrenica in July 1995 and the role of the UN Peacekeeping forces will be avoided in the future.
I saw this at the Movies that Matter film festival in Den Haag and am surprised that viewers perceived the portrayal of Karremans heroic. I felt the film was just above humiliating him by showing his complete ineptitude and powerlessness. The director said, at this showing, that the undressing of the UN soldiers was symbolic of humiliation. He conceded that one could make a whole movie about the role of the Dutch in Srebrenica but that it wasn’t his intention.
Does the movie claim to give an accurate picture of the events (like a documentary) or is it – in the view of the producers – merely loosely based on the events?
The latter. It’s a pretty good movie.
The point is that at a time when legal actions are being brought against the Dutch state and the United Nations in the Netherlands charging the Dutch with having failed to protect relatives of the plaintiffs who were murdered after being handed over by Dutchbat to Ratko Mladic, to romanticise and heroicise the role of the Dutch was insensitive to say the very least.