Sisters Georgia and Sophia Scott are a film-making duo from the UK, known individually and together for their work around the globe showcasing human rights issues and putting a human face on war. Their latest film, In the Shadow of War, shows the effects of the Bosnian conflict and genocide of the 1990s on today’s Bosnian youth. A film of pain, truth and healing, In the Shadow of War speaks to the effects of all wars, and the complicated path to reconciliation. United to End Genocide spoke with the Scott sisters about their film and what we can learn from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What prompted you to make a film in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and what did you find once production began?
Georgia: Until 2 years ago, neither of us had been to that part of Europe. We’d made a film in Kenya about the peaceful coexistence of Islam and Christianity, and we wanted to do a film that was closer to home. Bosnia is in central Europe, so we felt like it was something we should look to there since the war ended almost 20 years ago.
Sophia: What we found was that there were lots of long-term consequences of war, and the four kids that we filmed all show a very different consequence of the war. Generally, war is catastrophic for everyone, and I think this film highlights how that catastrophe lives on with the next generation. Even though this film is restricted to four kids, their stories are just examples of many other millions of other children right now living with active and post-conflict societies.
Your film follows these four teens in a very personal way, examining their mental and physical scars. Was it hard getting them to open up about their experiences?
Sophia: We spent a lot of time with them off-camera. I think that Elvis was quite relaxed with us, so we started filming him quite quickly. With the others, we spent time hanging out with us and they got kind of used to us. They didn’t find us like investigative journalists, which would’ve been threatening. Because we made this film independently, we allowed ourselves time to get to know them and their families.
The conflict in Bosnia is known for the genocide of Bosniaks by Bosnian Serb and Croat fighters, particularly at Srebrenica in 1995. Do you think the effects and stories you witnessed in Bosnia are a result of all wars, or is it specific to genocidal conflicts?
Georgia: I think it’s very much different in any war, but there will certainly be some of the same recurring consequences. These children in the film, they weren’t even born during the war. They didn’t actually see first-hand war, but its long-term consequences. PTSD continues through generations, and the economic and social consequences of war are the quite the same in different post-conflict countries.
Sophia: You really do have to look at the past and learn from it, and we’re really hoping that people can, by watching this film, actually recognize that it’s not all okay just because there’s no act of warfare. That’s very, very relevant right now with Syria and even Iraq; there are a lot of similarities with the type of warfare. People always say ‘never again’, but it does happen. It happens again and again.
Why should we watch In the Shadow of War?
Sophia: I think initially we were very cautious to say this is an anti-war film because that sounds very naïve, but to be honest it’s true. It’s an anti-war film. It shows the long-term repercussions and the damage war inflicts on societies, and how hard it is to heal. Our approach is we want to highlight how potentially the international community can go into other countries and maybe do things slightly differently. Maybe focus a little less on infrastructure and more on education, or on offering psychological help to abandoned children, or rather something for PTSD or women suffering from sexual violence. That’s something that we want to highlight with this film.
Georgia: And the essence of why Sophia and I are making documentary films is that we believe in the power of education and we believe in the power of documentary film to be used as an educational tool, and therefore we’re spending the next two years on the outreach and impact plan for this film. We believe that documentary film has the power to create discussions, to change policy, and to ignite discussions about such problems.
What’s the next step for you two and the film?
Georgia: We’re going to start on the ground in Bosnia and work our way out. We’ll be touring the film around and using it within the educational circuit. It’s a huge team and a very wide plan with a small team at the moment so we’re just starting on that.
What future do you see in Bosnia?
Sophia: The reason why Georgia and I spent two years on the ground in Bosnia and feel that it is such an important topic is because that war is over, but there is not necessarily peace and future peace secured across Bosnia. The risk of new conflicts breaking out there is possible we feel because there hasn’t a successful peace and reconciliation process there on the ground. That is made worse by the current education systems there like ‘two schools under one roof’ [where students are separated by ethnicity and taught different curricula], which we don’t want to attack, but it’s good for people to look at reworking that structure. We’re interested in triggering a bit of a debate that could rework that, because the three ethnic groups there are learning a different history which is a recipe for disaster.
A large part of what we do at United to End Genocide is help engage people worldwide so that they can bring a voice to mass atrocities around the globe. How can we all help and get involved with post-conflict healing in Bosnia?
Sophia: At the moment, if you go to our website you’ll see that our ‘Impact’ page says ‘under construction’, and that’s because we’re currently making a much more interactive platform on our website for people to get involved. There will be links to other organizations like War Child. There will be links to small grassroots organizations on the ground that help Bosnian kids get an education. There will be practical things like that for donations, and at the same time we’re working on a non-aggressive call to action. We don’t want to heavily lobby policy makers but to gently talk and start discussion.
In the Shadow of War is currently being submitted to and shown at film festivals around the world. The film will be officially released in 2015, and on television in later 2015. For upcoming screenings and more information, go to intheshadowofwarfilm.com.