In The Shadow Of War: The long-term reality

Twenty years on from the war in Bosnia, identity struggles reign as the four main characters in the film struggle to make sense of the different scars they have inherited. Ante has to deal with the weight of his father’s war crimes as he visits him in jail while Magdalena tries to bear her father’s untreated post-traumatic stress syndrome. Another young man, Ilija, remains traumatised by his mothers’s early abandonment. He does not know his father and the audience can conclude that his mother may well have been a victim of rape.

Evidently the lack of immediate support available after the war to its countless victims has directly affected the next generation. Elvis, who struggled with his mothers’ recent death, summed up the feelings of this lost generation well: “All my life I have been looking for peace but I can’t find it anywhere.”

When asked about how the film came about, Sophia explained that the story developed very naturally:

“Georgia and I had never been to the region before two years ago when we travelled out there for a recipe for a film that we knew we wanted to make but we were not sure what route it was going to take.”

When asked about her choice of characters, Sophia expressed a concern some voiced about the fact that they did not have a Bosnian–Serb protagonist. She explained that despite it being harder to break into the Serbian communities they felt no need to confirm to a systematic balance of their characters’ ethnicities. Sophia said:

“We don’t like putting anyone in boxes. . . . We are happy that it turned out this way.”

Georgia reinforced that the film’s aim was not to be political but instead focus on their characters’ identities and struggles above all else. She said:

“We tried to stay true to the kids’ stories and let them tell it which is why we don’t have any experts talking about PTSD or secondary trauma and stuff.”

Both sisters emphasised the importance of honesty and transparency throughout the filming process despite the challenges they faced. One such logistical challenge was filming in the high-security prison where Ante’s father was serving his sentence. Georgia said:

“It was a very difficult situation filming in there . . . and he threatened us a little bit in case we made a film he didn’t like.”

Hird was first introduced to the film at last year’s edition of the Sheffield Doc/Fest, when the Scott sisters pitched In The Shadow of War. Finishing off each others’ sentences, it was clear to the audience that the sisters work well together. Hird, who is a big supporter of independent cinema, remarked on that point:

“I have this theory that siblings are the best people to make films together. . . . The thing that has sustained this film has been the strength of their relationship and their commitment to it.”

Evidently the bond between the sisters translated into close relationships with their protagonists. When asked if their presence helped the individuals in the filmmaking process, Georgia answered honestly:

“I think it was positive and negative. I think when we were there it helped him, . . . when we left it was hard for Elvis. . . . We continue to stay in touch with them on a daily basis.”

The Scott sisters intend to maintain that support and have plans for an outreach programme supported by practical experts in post-war trauma. Sophia said:

“This film has a big outreach plan. . . . We cannot lay this film to rest for another three years because it is screening in other areas currently being affected by conflict.”

More information about the film and the outreached programme can be found here:

You can watch and listen to the Q&A here: