Nationalism and extremism represent the noise that deafens our space, and the whole region desperately needs a rational discourse that will bring us closer and not lead to further divisions, said actresses Jovana Stojiljkovic, Kristina Obradovic, actor Goran Bogdan and director Dino Mustafic.
Speaking at the National Platform for Combating Violent Extremism organized by CDT in cooperation with the National Operational Team for Countering Violent Extremism, Terrorism, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, these artists said that the noise of nationalism and extremism must be “killed” so that those who do not want particularism, national frictions and conflicts can finally be heard.
Actor Goran Bogdan says that nationalism employs a discourse of noise, does not listen, excludes and “does not in favor the gentle ones.”
“I was 10-11 years old when the war started. Nationalisms are rapidly sliding into extremism, and these changes lead to the enthusiasm of people favoring it, who in their enthusiasm easily resort to preaching, exclusion, noise, extremism,” Bogdan says.
He adds that it is necessary to foster a normal discourse that should serve as the antithesis to the big words that we hear from the media. “Things like this are necessary to kill that noise so that the voice of the gentle ones could be heard. I am afraid that now that the arms are rattling and that war is being mentioned, the gentle are becoming even gentler – they are fleeing, feeling disempowered and unable to overcome that noise. I am afraid that they will become quieter, so we should encourage that quieter discourse, diminishing the noise. We need to create an environment where our personal identities will be expressed, not those religious and national ones, but personal identities, which make us who we are. Everyone seems to be anxious, and this goes beyond whether one feels as Croat, Serb, or Bosniak. I don’t know other ways to combat extremism,” Bogdan said.
Director Dino Mustafić believes that the Balkans does not nurture a culture of trust and peace-building politics. “We are witnessing the rehabilitation of the 1990s politics that took us all back decades in every sense. I belong to a generation that didn’t even think in the wildest dreams that everything would fall apart for us, who were 22-23 at the time. As Shakespeare says – only the sky hasn’t fallen on our heads yet,” the director said, adding that early forms of democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the eve of war, laid bare the illiteracy of politicians. “We joked with them, we mocked them, yet we couldn’t assume they were shaping the destiny of all of us,” he pointed out.
Instead of being proud of our polyphonic identities, he adds, we reduce them to ethnic and religious politics. “It is essential to identify and label those who are the torch-bearers of such political views and not to take equidistance –we all must participate in this effort equally. We are aware, once again, that we are not the owners of our destiny and that in the new geostrategic rearrangements, the Balkans can become a kind of collateral damage. We have no days to spare for waging war, and this comes from a person who survived the siege of Sarajevo,” Mustafic said. “The siege does not belong to the distant past, and today we must be wary of such frequencies. We are once again witnessing the rhetoric that pushed us into radical evil during the 1990s. We must be cautious not to underestimate stupidity and nonsense,” he added.
Actress Jovana Stojiljkovic said that her mother was half-Herzegovinian, half-Montenegrin, while her father was a Serb, and that what she should have been proud of as a child caused her to be anxious. “I had to self-determine and tell people who I am through my ideas and attitudes. Unfortunately, I grew up in a Belgrade neighborhood that is known for violence, where I had to fight not only to save my sneakers but my life, despite being just a girl “, says the young actress from Serbia.
According to her, art is a form of psychotherapy and a way to communicate with others. ” [The role of] Ophelia helped me to understand the environment and myself and to convey what I have in me, the same way Sofka did in “Impure Blood.” I live in such an environment, and I know that it is not enough – people are thirsty and hungry for love and, at the same time, drunk with fear. We have to be gentle and understand each other because the noisy ones are strong”, Stojiljkovic says.
Montenegrin actress Kristina Obradovic described the events that indicate that extremism is all around us.
“Recently, during a night, my son woke me up, only to be followed by my daughter, and then – I was awakened by a bomb blast. The car that was parked behind mine was blown up. It belonged to a neighbor we greet every day. Later, when I took my daughter into my car, I felt relieved that my car was only charred and that my daughter didn’t ask any additional questions about it because I didn’t know what kind of answer I could give to the four-year-old on that topic,” Obradovic said.
“A couple of days after that, one of my neighbors wanted to compliment me on the role I was playing in a TV show. She complimented using two sentences before she proceeded to explain that the TV station broadcasting the show is the only one she watches, to explain herself better”, she continued.
“Shortly after that, in answer to a question asked by some wonderful older neighbors, I said ‘Monday.’ They were curious to hear me pronounce the word again? Was it Monday (pronounced as Serbian variant) or Monday (pronounced as Montenegrin variant) or… They were, like, I thought you said Monday. Well, I said Monday, indeed. Monday or Monday? Either way, I referred to the 16th, which fell on Monday. Monday, Monday, you’re not becoming one of the Montenegrin actors who switch to Serbian, are you?” she recounted a conversation with a neighbor.
“I remember being in labor and just about to give birth to my second child. I was suffering from extreme pain when a nurse came in to fill out a form. She asked me about my nationality. So I asked back – is it possible that I am supposed to answer such a question at such a delicate moment? The nationality of you and your child? I asked if I was expected to declare the nationality of my unborn child?” said the actress.
Dino Mustafić pointed out that the break-up of Yugoslavia was also the break-up of the Yugoslav model of culture – a community that existed for seventy years – renowned for high achievements in all spheres of art. “The fact is that we speak a language we understand, for which we do not need subtitles, helps. However, we saw the use of brute force in that regard as well, since Dragojevic’s films used to be subtitled in Croatia. Nevertheless, such nationalist work eventually failed miserably. Today, virtually every film is co-produced, while national theaters also collaborate closely. Our art is jumping over all the barriers that are put before the new generations. We recognize each other by the values we want to share. Even in sports, one finds an occasional Nazi, but such thing is rare among great artists”, the director pointed out.
He adds that rational and conciliatory discourse that should bring us closer and not divide us is also doomed to failure during elections. “The political alternative that needs to move from the opposition to the position uses the very same language and even further radicalizes it. They believe that employing the populist narrative is the only way by which they can come to power,” he said.
Goran Bogdan added that decent communications were less and less present in the “mainstream” and public broadcasters’ programs. “I do not see a difference between Zadruga reality show and what Vučic and Milanovic have to say. An alternative must be found. If everything is the same, if we “sameify” everything, then everything becomes the same for young people, and the sociology of the heard is created – the one that is easy to manage. We, the subversive ones, have to fight subversively until certain things become mainstream,” he said.
Kristina Obradovic added that “one right path would be to have Public broadcaster reallocate its modest budget from the purchase of seven old soap operas to one specific drama program that will be based on literature. Such program, however, does not work for those who make decisions,” she said.
Jovana Stojiljkovic, who starred in the “South Wind,” says that the media often say that this film promotes violence, although, as she says, it is clear that it is a genre film. “It is interesting to me that the media point the finger so brazenly that we feel the need to explain what a genre film is, while the morning shows abound with more vulgar content, while there is no culture and education program… So as it turns us – whether children should watch that film appears a bigger problem,” Stojiljkovic said.