Learning from the past, building on the future

In a commitment to remember the past and create a better future, a group of Bradford College students have travelled to Bosnia to create a documentary for leading charity Remembering Srebrenica. The documentary aimed to highlight the atrocities carried out during the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s.

The British charity, Remembering Srebrenica, aims to teach delegates the lessons of the country’s grim past to better inform the present. Alongside this, the charity conducts an awareness raising campaign, which is aimed at countering discrimination and building stronger community relations.

With the support of Nosheen Qamer, Police Camps Project Manager, the Film and Photography students: Cameron Davidson, Farjad Raja, Hannah Thompson and Sarah Mbakama, realised the importance of bringing the story to life in remembrance of the victims.

Survivors of the genocide retold their poignant story of survival when the Bradford College delegation visited as part of the educational programme ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’.  Students and staff heard first hand from survivor of war, Resad Trbonja about life in Sarajevo during the siege. Artist Hasan Hasanovic accompanied the group to the Tariq Samarah Gallery, Tunnel Museum in Sarejevo and the Potocari Memorial Centre where the delegation saw disturbing photographs and footage of the genocide and heard first-hand accounts of the horrors that took place.

During the week-long visit to Bosnia in June, the group visited the Podrinje Identification Project and the International Commission on Missing Persons, where staff have been working since the end of the conflict to identify and return the remains of the victims that were found in mass graves.

The group were taken to a mortuary that housed the still uninterred remains of thousands of men and boys killed in the war. They saw the body parts, bones and skeletons of those found in primary and secondary graves.

During the poignant visit, the group met with the mothers of Srebrenica, one of whom had lost almost 40 male members of her family, including her son, brothers and uncles. With the remains of over 1000 men and boys still missing, one mother described her last moments with her 19 year old son who was taken from her.  8 years after the conflict ended, all that was found of him and returned to her were 3 bones.
Student Cameron Davidson reflected: “It was quite difficult and quite sensitive when we had to visit the mothers who’d lost their son’s during the conflict. We were concentrating on filming, but we were also concentrated on the people being interviewed because what they were saying was so powerful.”

A journalist accompanied the delegation to write a series of articles about Srebrenica and a playwright, also on the trip, will develop teaching resources and activities to be used in Bradford schools. These activities will also form part of the programme for the August Police Camps run by Bradford College in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and others.

Nosheen Qamer, Police Camps Project Manager said: “The four students were professional, courteous and handled the often difficult and emotional topics we covered with sensitivity and maturity. They represented Bradford College and young people in general extremely well.”

Media Production Lecturer, David Crighton said “All of the students who have taken part in the project have demonstrated their ability to work to a professional standard under difficult circumstances. They’ve taken a lot away from the visit, both in terms of their production skills but also in terms of their personal development. They can all be very proud of their achievements.”

Student Sarah Mbakama reflected: “A lot of people don’t know about the genocide in Bosnia so our aim was to raise awareness amongst young people about what happened.

“I was really proud of the group who went over and how we worked with the people who live over in Bosnia. It was such an amazing experience.”

Farjad Raja said: “We’ve created a shortened version of the documentary to go into schools, so students in this country can understand the importance of the events that took place in Bosnia during the genocide. We hope a longer version of the finished documentary will be entered into festivals.

“What I’ve taken away from the experience is just to appreciate life so much more, as we can sometimes take stuff for granted.”

Hannah Thompson concluded: “I found it a really interesting experience learning about what happened in Bosnia during that time, but I also found it really emotional.

“The trip has made me really appreciate my life and the people in it; it has given me a much more positive outlook. My hopes for the documentary are that we can show people and educate them about what happened so that people can learn from it.”

The message from the survivors of the genocide ‘we must play our part, no matter how large or small to create a better and safer society for all’ will undoubtedly resonate in the lives of the students and staff at Bradford College. Leaving Bosnia with a firm commitment to work in Bradford to ensure we live peacefully with one another in our communities.

The documentary will be screened during the International Day of Non Violence 2 October 2015 where guest speakers will be on hand to talk about the impact of hate and war.

To view the footage from the documentary visit: https://youtu.be/6Vh1-nTzjds

Written on 27th July 2015Lillie Geistdorfer. Published in Members News, News