Thirty years after the conflict: two Quebec police officers filmed a documentary in Bosnia

Thirty years after the conflict: two Quebec police officers shot a documentary in Bosnia

MISE À DAY

Alain Boivin was only 18 when he flew to Sarajevo to participate as a soldier in the peacekeeping mission in the middle of the Bosnian conflict. “I thought about that almost every day since I came back, he drops on the phone. I have been two decades saying to myself: I have to go back.

Marked for life by the human misery he saw during his visit in 1993, the man who is now a police officer in Saint-Eustache finally returned to Bosnia at the beginning of October to shoot a documentary, criss-crossing the four cities where he had passed at the time.  

In Sarajevo, the facades of certain buildings still bear the traces of missiles.

The film Rendezvous in Srebrenica, which will be available in 2023, will document his personal quest, that of going to see how the country has recovered from this war which left 100,000 dead and two million displaced. Alain Boivin explains that he needed to make “other memories”. 

“When I thought of that event, it was with my head as a guy who was 18 years old, he confides. It relieved me a lot to see that life had resumed its course. We will see him redo his journey with a lot of emotions. 

“I shed some tears”, he says.

“It hits the 'imaginary'

For the filming, Alain Boivin left with a good friend, the policeman and cameraman Jean-Sébastien Levan, who works today as spokesperson for the Police Department of the City of Lévis. Contrary to what they expected, they were not intercepted by the police either in the street or at customs, said Mr. Levan.   

The duo were able to capture images very freely from all the places they traced. The first stops were in Sarajevo and Visoko, where the ruins of the Canadian base camp are located. 

“The government has not invested in erasing the traces of the past, noted Jean-Sébastien Levan. There are still ruins all over the place, artefacts that have been abandoned. There are places in downtown Sarajevo where there are holes in buildings, bullet holes, missile craters with shrapnel. It strikes the imagination”. 

There are still many vestiges of the Bosnian war, even thirty years later.

Then they set off for Mostar, where the Museum of War and Genocide is now located. “It was the most tough part, evokes the cameraman and policeman. They have no shame in relation to that time. I saw very raw images, videos of executions in the fields, very graphic photos of deceased children. It put images on what I had been hearing since the beginning of the trip. I said to myself: ok, that's why we come here. 

The highlight of the expedition was the detour to Srebrenica, where Alain Boivin had spent four of the six months of his mission. By 1993, the village of 2,500 people had turned into a besieged town of 52,000 refugees. There he met Rob Zomer, a former Dutch soldier who witnessed the 1995 genocide that killed more than 8,000 people in the village – all men between the ages of 15 and 77. 

Thousands of genocide victims from 1995 rest in the cemetery of Srebrenica.

“We, the Canadian soldiers, had a role of protecting the city and the population, which was the equivalent of putting yourself between two people who are bickering, recalls Alain Boivin. We lived in tune with the people. She was so helpless. They had no more food, they were hungry, they were sick, there was no more electricity. People heated with wood, but by dint of cutting the wood around, it gave an apocalyptic impression. This village made a big impression on me.” 

A parallel with Ukraine

The documentary was shot ironically as thirty years later, history is repeating itself less than 2000 kilometers northeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

“It's incomprehensible, but it doesn't surprise me, drop the former soldier. What happened in Bosnia is not going to prevent the war in Ukraine and prevent the Russians from doing what they wanted to do. For them, economic, strategic and tactical ambitions come before civilian casualties, unfortunately.” 

“When you see all the atrocities that the Serbs have committed against the civilian population, you wonder how Human beings can come to this, wonders Jean-Sébastien Levan, transformed by his trip to Bosnia. Why has history not taught men? This is striking.”  

The documentary Rendez-vous à Srebrenica will be available in 2023.