Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War

Released into theaters at a time when former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic faces criminal charges in front of an international tribunal at the Hague, George Bogdanich's lengthy, three-part documentary raises a number of provocative questions about the complex web of events surrounding the dissolution of Yugoslavia. "Part 1, Lighting the Fuse"...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Released into theaters at a time when former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic faces criminal charges in front of an international tribunal at the Hague, George Bogdanich's lengthy, three-part documentary raises a number of provocative questions about the complex web of events surrounding the dissolution of Yugoslavia. "Part 1, Lighting the Fuse" traces the roots of the Yugoslav conflict and the role played by Western powers in turning several localized conflicts into an inevitable and (the film postulates) entirely avoidable war. With evidence that appears to contradict the official U.S. view that the Serbs started the war, Bogdanich explores the way in which a newly unified Germany's determined support for an independent Croatia served as a catalyst for civil war. The segment ends with the European Community's disastrous 1992 vote — cast under intense pressure from the U.S. and Germany — to recognize Bosnia, Slovenia and Croatia as independent states (a vote one pundit called "as close to criminal negligence as a diplomatic act can be"), which was soon followed by the eruption of war in Bosnia. "Part 2, The Proxy War" deals with the U.S.'s unflagging support for Bosnia's former president, Alija Izetbegovic, characterized here as a Muslim extremist whose Sarajevo regime maintained terrorist training camps and ties to an international radical Islamic network that included Osama bin Laden. Bogdanich attempts to undo the prevailing perception of Muslims as victims and Serbs as aggressors — perceptions fostered by biased reporting by the European and U.S. press, who allowed themselves to be manipulated by media-savvy Croats and Muslims. "Part 3, Taking Sides: The Road to Kosovo" attempts to uncover the extent to which the U.S. provided secret support to Bosnian Muslim forces and the Croatian government. As Lord Peter Carrington, former mediator of the European Community, points out, a case can be made for all sides in this highly complicated civil war. Bogdanich's obvious determination to counter the demonization of the Serbs, however, goes without the benefit of opposing viewpoints, and the film veers uncomfortably close to pro-Serb propaganda. Bogdanich makes a number of shocking claims — Bosnian Muslims not only incited but orchestrated mortar attacks on their own people — quibbles about the number of raped and dead, and comes close to calling Jadranka Cigelj, the Croatian woman who spoke out about her experiences in Serbian rape camps, a liar. Indeed, Slobodan Milosevic himself has, to Bogdanich's dismay, used portions of the film to bolster his defense.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Released into theaters at a time when former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic faces criminal charges in front of an international tribunal at the Hague, George Bogdanich's lengthy, three-part documentary raises a number of provocative questions abo… (more)

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