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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 13:54 GMT
Gay war film stirs Bosnian anger
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Sarajevo

Go West film
Go West is not an explicit film by western standards
The director has received death threats, religious groups have condemned it and those who have actually seen the film do not want to be identified for fear of attack.

All this, and the film itself has not yet even been released to the public.

What is certain is that the film - Go West - has sparked a furious debate about one of the great taboos of Bosnian society: homosexuality.

In a small upstairs room in Sarajevo's French Cultural Centre, I was given a preview of the new film along with 20 or so friends of the director, Ahmed Imamovic. There was no pre-publicity.

Go West breaks new ground in the Bosnian film industry.

Religious role

Most Bosnian films during the past few years have centred on the rights and wrongs of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, and the role of the international community in it - like the Oscar-winning No Man's Land.

But this new film goes one step further, using the war as a backdrop to address another issue, that of homosexuality.

By addressing the issue of homosexuality in a film about the Bosnian war, it belittles the real issues at stake during the conflict
Enver Causevic,
editor of Walter magazine

"We like to joke that it's a film about Romeo and Romeo - without the Juliet. But we hope the film will encourage people to be more tolerant," says the film's producer Samir Smajic.

"It's a film which shows humanity and has warmth inside."

Go West tells the story of a gay male couple - one Muslim, one Serb - and their attempts to get out of Bosnia at the start of the war in 1992.

It is not, by western standards, an explicit film. But in a society where religion, whether it be Islam, Serbian Orthodox or Catholicism, plays such a powerful role, the film has run into a storm of criticism.

"We had a war here, we had genocide here and now we're making films about homosexuality. That's not a good subject for a film," says 19-year-old Kenan Efendic, who is training at the prestigious Medresa or Islamic school in Sarajevo.

Sarajevo's lesbian and gay pressure group supports the film
"Homosexuality is unnatural. And now people watching this film abroad will say 'Ah you see, they're all homosexuals in Bosnia'."

The Sarajevo magazine Walter has led the charge against the film, making personal attacks on the director of the film. Its editor, Enver Causevic, says he does not have a problem with homosexuality per se.

"But the film mixes up the issues of nationality and homosexuality. And that is wrong," he says. "By addressing the issue of homosexuality in a film about the Bosnian War, it belittles the real issues at stake during the conflict."


But others are glad that the issue of homosexuality is finally being addressed in Bosnian society.

"I am honestly afraid of being physically attacked if people know that I am gay," says, 21-year-old Mirsad, who works in the media industry in Sarajevo. He prefers to use a name other than his own.

Clip from Go West film
The Bosnian war of the 1990s serves as a backdrop for the film
"I know people who have left Bosnia and gone to western countries because of the attacks they've suffered."

Svetlana Djurkovic runs the "Q Association", the first lesbian and gay pressure group in Sarajevo.

"Homosexuality is something that has always been hidden in this society. So people don't know how to react when it comes to the surface. They feel threatened.

"We're fully behind the film and think the director has a lot of courage to go through with it," she says.

Ahmed Imamovic, who won the 2002 European Film Academy award for his short movie Ten Minutes, hopes his new film will get its premier at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Others in Bosnia hope it never sees the light of day.



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