- European Film Award-winning filmmaker Ahmed Imamovic’s feature debut, the Bosnia War-set gay romantic drama Go West has sparked anti-gay outrage among nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Go West: Gay movie romance outrages Bosnia’s nationalist & religious media
Even though 34-year-old Bosnian writer-director Ahmed Imamovic’s feature film debut Go West – co-written by newcomer Enver Puska – has yet to be released, it’s already causing quite a bit of controversy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to a BBC report, Imamovic has received death threats after becoming the target of attacks by nationalist elements in the Bosnian media. The article adds that “religious organizations” have also condemned Go West.
The reason for all this hostility?
Go West features the blood-soaked Bosnian War as the backdrop for a clandestine love story between two men – a “Serbian” student and a Bosnian-Muslim (Bosniak) cellist – as they attempt to flee Sarajevo. In the process, the cellist must dress up as a woman and pretend to be the Serbian’s wife.
Problems actually began even before Go West was finished.
As found in the American gay magazine The Advocate, in September 2004 the Muslim-run Hayat television channel vilified Ahmed Imamovic’s film, referring to it as a “mockery” of the plight of Muslims during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War, which resulted in more than 100,000 deaths.
The nationalist Sarajevo weekly Walter followed suit, with more attacks on both Go West and Imamovic. Its editor referred to the gay love story as “blasphemy.”
There may be more outrage on the way: Serbian Orthodox Christians shouldn’t be too pleased with the movie’s portrayal of a priest exhorting ethnic-religious hatred.
Screenwriter defends gay relationship
After being accused by a Muslim television personality that Go West featured a gay relationship so the movie could win (presumably festival) awards, co-screenwriter Enver Puska defended his work in an interview with the Sarajevo-based news weekly Slobodna Bosna.
“The main message of our film is that any kind of intolerance leads to misfortune,” Puska explained. “We cannot hate someone just because they are different.”
Slobodna Bosna journalist Edin Avdic took Puska’s side, calling the attacks “barbaric” while affirming:
“[Go West] is essentially a love-story movie which openly and without compromise talks about intolerance that the horrible circumstances of war impose, when being different in any way from others, being of other ethnicity, or being gay is enough to lose your life.”
Svetlana Djurkovic, leader of the Sarajevo-based gay and lesbian group Q Association, explains that “homosexuality is something that has always been hidden in this society,” adding, “So people don’t know how to react when it comes to the surface. They feel threatened.”
Go West producer Samir Smajic says that those involved in the production “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.”
An extra dose of encouragement will apparently be necessary.
The numerous Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens who happen to be devoutly religious and/or fervently nationalistic – be they Catholic, Serbian (Christian) Orthodox, or Muslim – may hate one another following years of internecine warfare, but they’re on the same side when it comes to vociferous anti-gay bigotry.
Unifying anti-gay hatred
At the beginning of Go West, its narrator tells the audience:
But this [mutual hatred among Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Bosnians] will stop one day. They will lay down the guns and forget about the massacres.
But they will continue to hate homosexuals as before. On the Balkans it’s easier to bear if someone in the family is a murderer rather than a faggot.
Religious and nationalist backlash or no, Ahmed Imamovic hopes Go West will have its official world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May.
Imamovic’s previous effort, the short Ten Minutes, won the 2002 European Film Award.
Go West movie cast
Go West stars Tarik Filipovic as the Serbian student Milan, Mario Drmac as the Muslim cellist Kenan (later disguised as Milan’s wife, “Milena”).
Also in the cast: Veteran Rade Serbedzija (Manifesto), stage and film veteran Mirjana Karanovic (Time of Miracles), and French film icon Jeanne Moreau (The Lovers, Jules and Jim).
Partly funded by Bosnian Federation Television, this Bosnian-Croatian co-production is dedicated to Ahmed Imamovic’s father and to Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America).
“Go West: Gay Movie” notes
 However incoherently, “Serbian” usually applies to an “ethnic” Serbian – or Serbian national – who isn’t a Muslim and who is most likely a member of Serbia’s branch of the Eastern (Christian) Orthodox Church.
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“Go West” endnotes
“[Go West] is essentially a love-story movie…” and “The main message of our film…” via The Advocate.
“Like to joke that…” via the BBC.
Image of Mario Drmac and Tarik Filipovic in the Bosnian gay movie Go West: Comprex.
“Go West: Gay Movie Sparks Religious + Nationalistic Outrage in Bosnia” last updated in August 2020.