Rock 'n' Roll defends Sarajevo, Review by Zlatko Gall
18 July 2017
Until I saw "Scream for Me Sarajevo", I did not understand the emotions nor the incredible amount of pride with which in January 1996 in Cannes, while promoting his new solo album "Skunkworks", Bruce Dickinson spoke to me about his Sarajevo wartime gig. I thought that his stories about driving in a wrecked military truck along the icy roads of Mount Igman and about the magnificent Sarajevo concert that took place that wicked, tragic winter of 1994, were just his own elegant way of trying to get rid of me.

It was as if he was telling me, knowing that I am from Split, the Sarajevo story that begins and ends on the runways around Split, just so he could dodge the "all-time question" about whether he intends to go back to his original flock of Iron Maiden any time soon. Today I understand why I was wrong. I also understand why, even after twenty years that have passed since that gig, Bruce and the boys from his band still clearly remember Sarajevo, "Sarajevans" and all that has happened to that city, its interior and its surroundings.

"Scream for Me Sarajevo" – a remarkable documentary which functions evenly well on at least three different fronts. As a suggestive and convincing documentary with a flawlessly realized story about a unique event – Bruce Dickinson's concert in besieged Sarajevo in 1994; as a documentary reconstruction of a segment of a life lead in a beleaguered and systematically devastated city – a reconstruction entirely deprived of the already well-known and exploited general information regarding locations, politicians, heroes and criminals; and, last but not least, as a fascinating testimony about a peculiar "resistance movement" against death and nothingness.

The resistance movement's main protagonists – unlike the defenders on the battlefield with Kalashnikovs and Zoljas – were all kinds of artists, hardcore professionals and absolute beginners, well-known and unknown creative souls and also teenagers. The kids who, because of their raging hormones or out of spite, in their stubborn attempt to live insanely "normal" lives in a city under siege in which one lives now and is gone the next minute, were seen as a weird and never before seen sort of an urban (we could also say rock and roll) guerilla. Bruce Dickinson's concert, together with the well-known Sarajevo beauty pageant, represents one of "THE" individual moments belonging to that naively utopian, escapist but also heroically rebellious "normality".

For the teenagers of "thenadays", as well as all the "rockers" – whether they were fans of Iron Maiden or not – the performance of Bruce Dickinson was as close to a miracle as it gets. It was a paranormal wraith, a miracle hard to understand. Just as their lives, or better yet their craving for a "normal" life acting as a shield that protected them from the madness of war, humiliation, hunger and even death, seemed unreal and wondrous to their rock-and-roll guests.

Apart from the swift matrix of the main plot, "Scream for Me Sarajevo" offers numerous meandering confluents through which people who have never even heard of Sarajevo or Dickinson can make sense out of the story. Some such elements are the unbreakable Sarajevo spirit and the (black) humor, which were obviously reflected in the selection of favorite songs or bands played on a small but resilient local radio station "Radio Zid" ("Radio Wall"). This wonder radio was playing music as if it wasn't in the middle of a war zone, surrounded by exploding bombs and grenades, but in the middle of Manhattan, Berlin, London... Because, for heaven's sake, it seems that it is only the people of Sarajevo that are able to - amidst constant shelling and sniper fire - embrace the music featuring guitars in burst fire mode, militaristic beats of the rhythm machine and lyrics speaking about fear and death, or, for that matter, cling onto the Bristol's trip-hoppers, not only for the music, but the band's symbolic name: "Massive Attack".

I might be overreacting, but to hell with it because "Scream for Me Sarajevo" represents an emotional niche with a sign above its entrance reading "Walter Defends Sarajevo". Except this time Walter is replaced by Sarajevo's teenagers and some fierce rock 'n' roll.

Translated by Luna Zimić Mijović and Berina Hodzic
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