Chaos in Kosovo

By Ryan Pike

For the majority of the past decade, cable news shows have provided periodic updates on the chaotic political situation in the Balkans. Despite the best efforts of the news media, the average person on the street has been continually befuddled by the continuing boundary changes and strife in the former Yugoslavia. View from the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo sheds some light on Kosovo and its tumultuous political standing in the world.

After the death of Josip Broz Tito in 1980 and the ascension of Slobodan Milosevic to power, four decades of political stability in Yugoslavia abruptly fell apart. The breakup of the Yugoslavian state into a series of smaller states led to violent flare-ups in certain regions, particularly in the autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo. Historically populated by a mixture of Serbs and Albanians, the province saw outbursts of violence culminating in outright civil war beginning in 1999. Following the outbreak of war, the United Nations and NATO attempted to restore peace and stability, but their involvement hasn’t been welcomed by all Kosovans.

Directors Laura Bialis and John Ealer tackle the complexities of Kosovo systematically, first recounting the region’s history and then delving into the more recent events. View from the Bridge’s lynchpin is the titular bridge in the town of Mitrovica, linking the Serbian north side with the Albanian south. Using the divided town as a frame of reference, the film delves into the complexities of Kosovo via interviews with many citizens of the region.

Arguably the biggest strength of View from the Bridge is the balance of varying voices and perspectives. The film features a wide array of interviews that provide a great deal of insight into the conflict. We meet Serbs living in the Serb-dominated north and Albanians living in the Albanian-dominated south, but also Serbs living in the Albanian region and Albanians living in the Serb region. In addition, the filmmakers speak with Roma gypsies living in a UN refugee camp near a lead mine and a unique married couple–one’s Serbian, the other’s Albanian.

In stark opposition with the strong editorial slant of recent documentaries, View from the Bridge presents a wide array of viewpoints without much of a bias. That’s not to say that the film is bereft of any and all bias–in fact, each and every speaker brings a strong stance to the table. However, there are enough different viewpoints presented that the biases all seem to cancel each other out.

If there’s a criticism of the film, though, it’s the lack of a clear message. The film’s message seems to be, “Kosovo sure is messed up” but the wide array of messages presented can, at times, dissolve into a whole lot of finger-pointing. The disarray in Kosovo is blamed on Slobodan Milosevic, the UN, NATO, the Serbs, the Albanians, the Roma gypsies, the U.S. and even multi-national corporations. The balanced approach taken by the filmmakers is commendable, especially in light of the complexities of the region, but also muddles the effectiveness of the film in conveying a clear message.

Nevertheless, View from the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo is a fascinating look at a politically tumultuous place in the world that manages to dispel myths and provide a great deal of information on the hows and whys of Kosovo. More importantly, the film provides an opportunity for the wide array of Kosovan peoples to have their voices heard and their perspectives understood.

View from the Bridge: Tales from Kosovo screens Thu., Apr. 24 at Craigie Hall F 119. Admission is $5 for student/seniors and $10 for adults.

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