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(E) Film Propaganda - All EQUALLY Guilty
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  12/11/2002 | Media Watch | Unrated
(E) Film Propaganda - All EQUALLY Guilty


Film Propaganda - All EQUALLY Guilty

Film offers different view of Yugoslav war
All sides in conflict are equally guilty, documentary argues


E-mail Duane Dudek at
Journal Sentinel film critic

(E) Film Propaganda - All Guilty

Last Updated: Nov. 4, 2002

Everything you thought you knew about the war in Yugoslavia is wrong, according to filmmaker George Bogdanich. Even worse, according to a former U.S ambassador to Belgrade who appears in Bogdanich's documentary about the conflict, U.S. and NATO policies in the region were "immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, ineffective, incomprehensible (and) indefensible."
If You Go

What: "Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War"
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5
Where: UWM Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Admission: Free 
Perception is in the eye of the beholder and hindsight is 20/20.
But one thing is clear - in Yugoslavia, the Western concepts of black and white became mired in the ghostly gray and bloodshed red of an internecine conflict whose interested parties over the years have included Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.
"Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War," showing tonight at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Theatre, is a grueling, inch-by-inch, frame-by-frame, 165-minute crime-scene look at the historical, ethnic and political fragmentation of the region.
"The Avoidable War" was directed by Bogdanich, a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus who uses talking heads, persuasive reportage and a connect-the-dots skepticism toward conventional wisdom to argue that Western and European biases toward Croats and Bosnian Muslims over the Serbs were wrongheaded and shortsighted, since all sides were equally guilty.
Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic showed parts of the film at his trial for crimes against humanity, but he edited it to eliminate anything incriminating against him.
Complicit in the conflict was a world media that was spoon-fed and then disseminated without question a barrage of misinformation and disinformation, exaggerated statistics and reports of atrocities that influenced public policy and world opinion, the film argues.
The most damning charges in the film are that Croatian forces would fire missiles or stage an attack from demilitarized zones and make sure the press covered the Serbian retaliation. The film also offers anecdotal evidence that massacres were staged to look like Serb attacks in order to scuttle negotiations to end the conflict. Throughout the conflict, the film says, Croatia's Washington-based PR firm advised the country on how to ensure favorable media coverage.
Bogdanich claims that on the one hand, German intelligence encouraged historically fascist and pro-Nazi forces in Croatia, while on the other, the U.S. allied itself with Muslim forces in Bosnia, supposedly to curry favor with Arab states. The movie argues that rather than calm waters, the West's biased intervention hindered a peaceful resolution.
A degree in Balkan history or international relations might be required to argue for or against the point, because the swirl of broken accords and ancient grudges chronicled is overwhelming to the point where all but veteran observers will lose track of them.
The web of intrigue even snared Microsoft, which, according to the agency representing the film, censored e-mails condemning Milosevic's use of the film at his trial by closing the agency's account. But this is just a sideshow to a tragedy that Bogdanich - who has served as a spokesman for Serbian-American causes - wishes had turned out differently.

E-mail Duane Dudek at 

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