Producer and the film's subject Kemal Pervanic in attendance for a Q&A
You never think your teachers and classmates will become killers. When it happens to you, how do you learn to live again? How do you rebuild your life in the face of denial and indifference?
In the spring of 1991, Kevljani was indistinguishable from scores of other villages in the rolling green hills of northwestern Bosnia. It was a place of vibrant young people filled with dreams of their future: of falling in love, travelling, settling down and then growing old gracefully among their grandchildren. For most Kevljani residents this is where life began and ended. One of them was a young man called Kemal Pervanic.
Twelve months later those dreams had been erased. Homes were destroyed and lives shattered. The people of Kevljani were rounded up by their Serb neighbours in hastily improvised concentration camps, in local schools and factories. In the camps, neighbours settled old scores. At Omarska camp, in an iron ore mine, Kemal was interrogated and tortured by his former schoolmates and teachers. He and his brother Kasim were lucky to survive the orgy of violence: scores of others, their neighbours and relatives, perished.
The survivors from Kevljani were scattered across four continents, but the pull of their village was strong. Since the war, small groups have returned. Kemal has been one of the returnees. As he helps his brother to rebuild their home, he searches for his former teacher and torturer. Two mass graves are discovered in the village, revealing the fate of more than 600 of those who were killed and disappeared at Omarska.
Along the way friends and neighbours tell their stories of war and survival while the search goes on for over a thousand missing family members and friends. What emerges is not a thirst for revenge, but a deep nostalgia for life before the war when the two communities lived in peace.
Pretty Village is not just a film about a Bosnian village. It tells a bigger story, about what happens to a society torn apart by conflict.
This film poses the question of whether peace and reconciliation are even possible in a country where the killers walk free, hailed as heroes.
"Anyone who hasn’t lived through a war knows nothing." - Besima Velic - Film's Subject
"A striking new documentary about Bosnia asks what happens to ordinary people when their lives are torn apart by war." - Alice Bloch - The Humanist