CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 20 . . . . May 29, 2009
A while ago, I was talking to a student about NATO and its involvement in the former Yugoslavia. The student asked if things there were okay now, and I answered that, since we do not hear much from there, I guess they were.
That's how much I knew.
In Is My Story Hurting You? filmmaker David Homel goes to Bosnia to see what life is like there now. He follows Vladimir Jovic, a psychiatrist who works with the Bosnian Serbs. These people, once described as "the bad guys-the devils" of the civil war, are still struggling with the past.
Graphic film footage of the war is interspersed throughout the journey. This was a time of horrific slaughter by both sides. While there is peace as far as one can see, there is little peace inside many of the survivors. Some are haunted by their own actions. Others are haunted by what happened to them. Most feel guilty for having survived. These are damaged people with very little in the way of resources to help heal them. Jovic tries his best but admits that he is unable to devote as much time as is needed. The people require more help than he is able to give. Shells of houses still stand. People in refugee camps have been there for years, and no hope to move is in sight. Houses taken during the war have never been returned to the owners. One woman pleads for the government to help her, but she is convinced that no one will. In fact, she is sure that they are putting poison in her drinking water. Jovic states that trust is nonexistent, and his first job is to try to get the patients to trust him.
Until 2000, Jovic worked with the most difficult cases. However, the stories began to affect his health, and he was no longer able to continue. Rape victims are forced to retell their stories. One woman explains how she had been sexually humiliated by those who stormed her house and she watched as the invaders threatened to shoot her family and then watched in horror as her baby was thrown to the floor. Her child, now a young adult, is mentally challenged. She was told to move to another village where she was repeatedly raped. She is alive but unable to forget the past. Her story is not unique.
Is My Story Hurting You? presents a balanced view of inhuman activity. Both sides in the civil war were guilty of atrocities, and graphic presentations of this are shown in the film. Jovic admits that his family grounds him and gives him a reason to live, but he also states that the fact that he did not serve in the war is a cause for some guilt. Even he is broken to some degree: "sometimes I have to act like a human and not just a therapist."
This is a very disturbing film, but it is one that could have applicability in any World History course. Is My Story Hurting You? could also be used in Law, Ethics, or Psychology. Since the graphic images and stories could cause some discomfort, the film should be previewed before showing a class.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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