Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide

Srebrenica Bodies

Srebrenica Massacre, also known as the Srebrenica Genocide, was the killing in July of 1995 of an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bosnian Serb forces

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  We begin with the Bosnian Genocide.

Recommended Books:

A Witness to Genocide: The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dispatches on the “Ethnic Cleansing” of Bosnia, Roy Gutman
Gutman presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning releases that he wrote, between December 1991 and June 1993, describing in detail the violence of nationalist Serbs, the deportation of Muslims, the systematic rape, and other horrors from the battlefields of Bosnia.

Bosnia: A Short History, by Noel Malcolm
Malcolm contends that “ethnic cleansing” is not a by-product of the mid-90’s war but a central element in the Serbian goal of creating homogeneous Serb enclaves that eventually will join together in a Greater Serbia.  He reaches back to Turkish occupation, Austro-Hungarian rule, both world wars and the era of Stalinist oppression under Toti in order to explain the origins of conflict in Bosnia.

Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War, by Eve Ensler
Two American women–a well-heeled New York psychiatrist and her younger colleague–travel to a refugee camp intending to help Bosnian women “tell their stories” after the brutal war in Yugoslavia.  Inexperienced in the field, the doctor learns to stop patronizing and start listening, while her more brittle companion retreats into therapeutic jargon.

Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, by Beverly Allen
The systematic rape of Muslim and Croat women as part of the “ethnic cleansing” campaign in the former Yugoslavia is by now common knowledge.  Allen explains the twisted logic by which perpetrators consider the act as cancelling the victim’s cultural identity.

Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
Sacco spent five months in Bosnia in 1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime, researching stories that are rarely found in conventional news coverage, emerging with this astonishing first-person account.  The book focuses on the Muslim-held enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war.

Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, by Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
The book details the final battle for Srebrenica and the murder of its men, attempts to explain why the Bosnian Serbs committed such a horrific act of genocide, and analyzes why the  international community sleep-walked into the disaster.

The Bridge Betrayed, by Michael A. Sells
Sells lays down a solid background of the origins of the recent systematic destruction of the Bosnian Muslims and explains the Serbian attitude that religion equals nationality.  He also blasts the UN, NATO, and the West for not becoming more involved in stopping the crimes against the Bosnians.

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
Inspired by Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who, in 1992, played in a bombed-out Sarajevo square for 22 days in memory of the 22 people who were killed by a mortar attack, this is a novel about four people trying to maintain a semblance of their humanity in the besieged city.

The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar, by Eric Stover and Gilles Peress
The account of forensic anthropologists’ work who reconstructed erased lives from scraps of bone and cloth, accompanied by photographs by journalist Gilles Peress, makes for disturbing but hopeful reading—hopeful because, through such documentation, the perpetrators may eventually be brought to justice.

Recommended Films:

Belvedere
Belvedere tells the story of the lonely lives of mostly female relatives of massacre victims, who spend their days wandering from mass grave to identification center, hoping to find the remains of their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers.

Grbavica: the Land of My Dreams
Set in Sarajevo’s Bosnian neighborhood, Grbavica is a gripping love story between a mother and daughter struggling against prejudice and poverty.  The film provides viewers a glimpse into daily Croatian life, by finessing tragedy and comedy into one story.  It is a tale that represents women and children affected by war, in their loss and strengthened love that promotes healing.

No Man’s Land
This film follows the story of three soldiers.  Fleeing enemy fire, an injured Bosnian soldier named Čiki retreats to a trench, where he finds himself trapped with a wounded comrade and a Serbian.  With no way to escape and with his fellow soldier lying on a spring-loaded bomb set to explode if he moves, Čiki realizes he must do the unthinkable, trust his enemy, if he wants to survive.

Snow (Snijeg)
In a remote Bosnian village, wartime survivors attempt to keep the memories of their loved ones alive.  But when the first snow threatens further isolation, the stage is set for a final confrontation with the outside world.

Statement 710399
This documentary focuses on the indvidual stories of four men who survived the genocide in Srebrenica and who were taken in by a Serb family; only to disappear again.

The Abandoned (Ostavljeni)
From the screenwriter:  a “look at the Bosnian war through the eyes of a boy who was born not as the fruit of love, but of hatred, and is part of a whole new people, nameless and unwanted, whose mothers were raped, and the search for identity, the search for his biological parents, who, each with his or her own reasons, do not want him – him, clean, sinless, innocent in everything, uninvolved in the sins of other.”

Background on the Bosnian Genocide: In the late-1980’s, the heterogeneous Yugoslav federation began to cleave along ethnic lines. Civil war erupted in 1992 against a backdrop of increasingly nationalist politics, including the idea of “Greater Serbia”. Between 1992 and 1995, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks soldiers and paramilitaries used widespread use of rape, torture and forcible displacement against civilians. The actions of some Serb units were particularly heinous, featuring attempts to eliminate non-Serb culture, a tactic soon to be known as “ethnic cleansing”. Across Bosnia and Herzegovina civilians were herded into camps as small scale massacres were committed. The most notorious of these was the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, when more than 7,500 Bosniak men and boys in the U.N.-safe area, were executed by forces under General Radko Mladic. The estimates for the human cost of the Bosnian civil wars range from 96,000 to 200,000, with a recent University of Washington-Harvard University study placing the fatalities near 167,000. Violence against civilians in Yugoslavia led to the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in 1993.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)


Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

8 Responses to Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide

  1. Pingback: Today April 5th, remembering the Bosnian Genocide « Orange County for Darfur Blog

  2. Pingback: Good books and films about genocide and mass atrocities (all entries) « Orange County for Darfur Blog

  3. Pingback: April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month « Orange County for Darfur Blog

  4. Pingback: Resources on Genocide | Stop Genocide Now

  5. Pingback: Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide « Unit D 2011/12

  6. Kevin says:

    U are missing BBC documentary “Death of Yugoslavia” which does a great job explaining the conflict.

    “Shot through the heart” movie based on a true story of two snipers during the civil war on opposite side.

  7. Kevin says:

    Also missing Angelina Jolie’s “In the land of blood and money”
    Owen Wilson’s “Behind enemy lines”

  8. Kevin says:

    Another one missing “Welcome to Sarajevo”

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