Film award forces Serbs to face spectre of Bosnia's rape babies

A surprise win for a Bosnian film at this year's Berlin festival has been greeted with a barrage of criticism in Belgrade where its subject, the rape babies left behind by the 1992-95 war, is still utterly taboo.

Grbavica, a moving drama about a single Bosnian mother, raising a 12-year-old daughter she had by an unknown Serb rapist, deals for the first time with the sensitive issue of Muslim women raped by Serbs.

It is also a story about the fate of the children some of the women kept and their struggle to survive in devastated post-war Bosnia.

The movie will almost certainly never be shown in Serbia, where allegations of rapes committed during the war are regarded as part of a smear campaign against the Serbs.

The film's young director Jasmila Zbanic launched a fierce criticism of the culture of denial on Saturday when she picked up the prestigious Golden Bear award.

"It's a big European shame that (wartime Bosnian Serb leaders) Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, responsible for rapes, murders and persecutions still have not been arrested" Miss Zbanic said as she received the award.

The 31-year old director, who spent the 1992-95 war in the Bosnian capital, named her debut feature Grbavica after a Sarajevo neighbourhood that was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war. Grbavica is also the home of Esma, a single mother whose rebellious 12-year-old daughter Sara grows up believing her father died as a Muslim hero defending Sarajevo. Things go wrong when Sara has a chance for a free school field trip, providing she shows a document detailing her father's death. Esma stalls until all hell breaks lose as the ugly truth surfaces.

She admits to Sara she decided to keep her, despite not wanting her after being repeatedly raped. The reason was simple - as she held Sara to her breast, the baby seemed to her to be the only beauty left in the world. Esma is played by Belgrade-born Mirjana Karanovic, a Serb actress who has faced criticism from much of the Serbian media for taking the role.

In a recent interview, she said she hoped the movie would be watched by both Bosnian Muslims and Serbs, "to allow them to realise what they had done to each other and to heal ... maybe we can reconnect," she said.

So far, there are no exact figures on how many, mainly Bosnian Muslim, women were raped in the war. Estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000. Nobody knows how many kept the children they conceived from what was often described as a systematic strategy of humiliation by Serbs.

Most were rejected by their communities due to the "shame" of being raped. "There are many such children. Many were adopted abroad ... some are in orphanages", Miss Zbanic said at a press conference in Berlin.

She made the movie after interviewing hundreds of women, many of whom have hidden the bitter truth like Esma.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam