The documentary opens with survivor Saliha Osmanovic, one of thousands of Srebrenica women who continue to search for their men, hoping against all odds that they will be found alive. Saliha parted ways with her husband and son when they fled into the woods from the Bosnian Serbs. In a gut-wrenching video, we see her husband Ramo after he has been captured by the Bosnian Serb military. At the soldiers' demand, he calls for his son Nermin to come down out of the woods. Neither has been seen since. During that same period, hundreds of men tried to escape through the mountains, and were either shelled, or captured and killed. Footage reveals a multitude of decaying bodies that still lie in those hills.
|Saliha Osmanovic returns to the United Nations base at Potocari in July 1999, on the fourth anniversary of the massacre.|
The film also includes an unprecedented interview with Naser Oric, the Muslim guerilla commander of Srebrenica before 1995. By briefly forcing Bosnian Serbs out of Srebrenica, Oric, then a 26-year-old policeman, became a legend among Muslims. He is still revered as their only defender, but his brutal acts helped fuel Serbian rage. About the Bosnian Serbs he says, "they had the technology, the logistics, everything, while we had only our lives."
|Former Muslim commander of Srebrenica, Naser Oric.|
Others featured in interviews include War Crimes Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour; President Clinton's chief Bosnia aide and current NATO ambassador Sandy Vershbow; senior United Nations diplomat in Bosnia Yasushi Akashi; and the Tribunal's chief Srebrenica investigator Jean-René Ruez.
Hasan Nuhanovic, who had arrived in Srebrenica with his family as one of the city's thousands of refugees, worked as a translator for the Dutch. Throughout the film, he gives us a personal understanding of the times surrounding the tragedy. After losing his entire family and still unsure of what happened to them, he concludes, "nothing can give me resolution, nothing can give me consolation...I have to live with this all my life."
|Jean-Rene Ruez at a suspected mass grave site.|
The film examines the role of the Dutch peacekeepers who arrived in the region in January 1995. In response to UN airstrikes, the Serbs held 350 Dutch peacekeepers hostage in May. The peacekeeping battalion itself proved a direct obstacle to the UN's ability to pacify the region with military might. In July, the Dutch commander's request for UN airstrikes against the Serbs was ignored because of concerns for the safety of the peacekeeping forces on the ground.
"The effort to put peacekeepers in a context where there was no peace to keep, and hope that this would somehow contribute to a durable solution was exposed as folly," Sandy Vershbow says in the film.
SREBRENICA: A CRY FROM THE GRAVE leads us hour by chilling hour through the Bosnian Serb takeover of each strategic military point in Srebrenica. It culminates in video footage of General Ratko Mladic as he lays claim to the town. Mladic foreshadows the horror to come when he says, "the moment has come to take revenge on the Muslims in this place."
"I personally never expected Mladic to overrun the enclave, because the world was watching," says Wim Dijekma, who was a Communications specialist for the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica. In the film, his video record provides a vivid account of the dilemma of his fellow peacekeepers.
Footage also depicts General Mladic meeting with Srebrenica's civilians, including a schoolteacher and Hasan Nuhanovic's father, a former businessman. As Mladic demands the surrender of all weapons, he puts the fate of the townspeople in these representatives' hands, saying "There is no need for your people to die...just decide what you want to do. As I said last night, you can survive or disappear."
The film includes interviews with other eyewitnesses to the takeover, including Zumra Shekhomerovic who recalls the horrifying experience when she was separated from her husband, never to see him again. Kadir Habibovic, a Muslim man who survived capture, also tells his story. After being apprehended by Bosnian Serbs, he managed to escape, running from gunfire and hiding in the hills for two weeks until he made his way to Muslim territory. Video footage depicts men - many injured and most weeping - arriving in the safety of Muslim territory.
Jean-René Ruez is Chief Investigator into the Srebrenica massacre for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He is currently heading up efforts to find and prosecute those responsible. Now after painstaking work in Bosnia, he has developed a highly explicit account of the mass murder. In the film, he details the chain of industrialized killings - at schools and factories - that left thousands dead.
The film takes us to the old salt mines under the town of Tuzla where more than a thousand unidentified bodies are still stored. Physicians for Human Rights are performing autopsies on the remains in an effort to put names to the victims. With most bodies severely decayed, it's an arduous process. To date, only 66 bodies have been identified.
|Hundreds of unidentified bodies stored in an old salt mine in Tuzla, Bosnia|
In the present day, people of the region live in an uneasy peace that is enforced by more than 32,000 UN troops, including 6,000 Americans. One of the greatest remaining questions is: how can these people live together after all of the bloodshed, when some of the perpetrators still freely walk the streets?
"Accounting and accountability will be brought to bear on those who bear personal criminal responsibility," War Crimes Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour says in the film. "Not for all of what has happened, but for their role in it."
|SFOR (Stabilization Force) patrol by American Troops.|
"It's not going to be possible to have a future in this country without first justice," says Hasan Nuhanovic. "That has to be satisfied."
SREBRENICA: A CRY FROM THE GRAVE is made possible by Mutual of America, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jacob Burns Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Television Viewers and PBS.