'Go West': Bosnian gay movie outrages local nationalist-religious media
Although 34-year-old Bosnian writer-director Ahmed Imamovic's feature film debut Go West has yet to be released, it is already causing quite a bit of controversy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to a March 2005 BBC report, Imamovic has received death threats and has been attacked by nationalist elements in the Bosnian media. The article adds that “religious organizations” have also condemned Go West.
The reason for all the hostility?
Go West features the blood-soaked Bosnian war as the backdrop for a love story between a Serbian student and a Bosnian-Muslim cellist trying to flee Sarajevo. The lovers are both male. One of them – the Muslim cellist – must dress up as a woman and pretend to be the Serbian's wife.
Problems actually began even before Go West was finished. In Sept. 2004, the Muslim-run Hayat television channel vilified Ahmed Imamovic's film, referring to it as “mockery” of the plight of Muslims during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, which left more than 100,000 people dead. (Some sources place the number of dead at 200,000.)
The nationalist Sarajevo weekly Walter followed suit, with more attacks on both Go West and Imamovic. Its editor referred to the film as “blasphemy.”
Also, Serbian Orthodox Christians will likely be none too pleased with Go West's portrayal of a rabid 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 Evan Puska defended his work in an interview for the Sarajevo-based investigative news weekly Slobodna Bosna.
“The main message of our film is that any kind of intolerance leads to misfortune,” Puska was quoted as saying. “We cannot hate someone just because they are different.”
Slobodna Bosna journalist Edin Avdic took Puska's side, calling the anti-Go West attacks “barbaric.” Avdic added that the film “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 Sarajevo's gay and lesbian group Q Association, explains that “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.”
Go West producer Samir Smajic adds, “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.”
A lot 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.
At the beginning of Go West, its narrator tells the audience:
But this [mutual hatred among Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims] 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 the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in May. Imamovic's previous film, 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”), veteran Rade Serbedzija (Manifesto), stage and film veteran Mirjana Karanovic (Time of Miracles), and French film icon Jeanne Moreau (The Lovers, Jules and Jim).
Go West is a Bosnian-Croatian co-production, partly funded by the Bosnian Federation Television.
“Go West: Gay Movie Sparks Religious and Nationalistic Outrage in Bosnia” is a revised version of an article initially posted in March 2005.
Image of Mario Drmac and Tarik Filipovic in the Bosnian gay movie Go West: Comprex.