Welcome to Sarajevo (1996)

Welcome to Sarajevo

Dir. Michael Winterbottom, 1997

Twenty years ago, the longest battle in modern human history was at a fever pitch, and western journalists were camped out in the middle of it. Welcome to Sarajevo’s greatest distinction is its immediacy– it was filmed right after the battle of Sarajevo ended, and written long before. On the one hand, this gives the film an uncomfortably Anglo-centric point of view. On the other, it keeps the events of the film on a human scale: war is simply chaos, and anything could happen.

One of Michael Winterbottom’s “histories,” the film is carried by Stephen Dillane, playing an ITN reporter embedded in the heart of Sarajevo. When his new Bosniak driver introduces him to an overflowing orphanage, Dillane begins a campaign to evacuate the orphans from the city. At one point he unintentionally promises to take one girl back to England with him, and has no idea how to do so, but a promise is a promise: he will take this girl home under the pretense that he is adopting her.

The remainder of the film shows the actions of everyone around Dillane, including his driver, ITN partner Kerry Fox, and gonzo reporter Woody Harrelson, whose role is less prominent than advertised. As so much of the film is staged to look like news footage, it is these characters that bring the battle to life, as they plot and plan and hope for a time when Sarajevo will no longer be “the 14th worst place in the world.” A-

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