by Tomislav KLAUSKI
At one moment the office of the president of the republic seriously considered finding a sponsor that would be willing to sponsor a primetime broadcast of the controversial documentary. President's office informed the management of the HTV about that idea, but since the HTV immediately afterwards initiated the negotiations regarding the buying of the broadcasting rights for the film, the idea fell through. The management of the HTV explained that the idea from the President's office was also rejected because the new HTV Law prohibits sponsored political programs because political programs are controlled by the HTV Council. Instead, the HTV initiated purchases of broadcasting rights for a whole series of films produced by the "Factum" media company, run by Nenad Puhovski, including Knezevic's documentary film. These films will be broadcast as their broadcasting rights are purchased, except for "Storm Over Krajina".
The HTV's explanation is as follows: "We cannot broadcast the film just like that!" In the situation when General Rahim Ademi has gone to the Hague because of the alleged crimes committed in the operation Medak pocket, and an arrest warrant has been issued for General Ante Gotovina for crimes committed after the operation "Storm", editors of the HTV believe that any broadcast of that documentary film would amount to "pouring gasoline on fire". "The documentary takes the Serb point of view and portrays Croat soldiers as murderers and criminals, neglecting the fact that some crimes have been prosecuted," says our interlocutor close to the HTV management, explaining that the film hasn't been destroyed, but will be broadcast in the foreseeable future, when the time is right.
The management of the HTV is "shocked by the pressure" exerted by the President's Office to broadcast the film at all cost on the anniversary of the operation "Storm". "No chance," the HTV management says, adding that it was nevertheless agreed that the film will be broadcast in late August or early September, but in parallel with other documentary movies about Serb crimes. "We do not want to impose the feeling of Croat guilt and our intent is to give to our viewers full information, from both sides." The President's office decidedly rejected insinuations that it was exerting political pressure that the film be shown in full and without commentary.
Knezevic claims that the Croatian Ministry of Culture partly financed the film, which means that it was aware of its content. "They saw the synopsis of the film and we did not significantly diverge from it during the editing of the film. Obviously, someone in the ministry believed that this would be a good time to show such a film," Knezevic adds.
Film "Storm Over Krajina" was screened only during the Tenth Days of the Croat Film; the audience watched the film in dead silence, with only a few shouts "What about Vukovar?". The heated debate developed at the press conference held after the screening of the film. The main objection of those who criticized the film was that the film seems to portray the whole operation "Storm" as a planned and systematically implemented action against the Serb population in Croatia. Apparently, they were not so much against the showing of the burnt villages and mass murders.
The documentary is a compilation of footage from the very beginning of the war, speeches by Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudman, Vojislav Seselj, portrayal of the atmosphere at the political rallies, and then the documentary fast forwards to the horrors committed immediately after the "Storm". Furthermore, in key spots clips of statements of official representatives of the Croat authorities are included, as well as data about the overall number of killed civilians and burnt houses, especially those collected by the Croatian Helsinki Committee and published last year. The icing reserved for the end of the film is Tudman's statement directed to thousands of Serb refugees: "Good riddance!" All of that, according to the editors and management of the HTV, suggests that Croatia had almost identical participation in the war time horrors as the Serb side, and the fact that the film does not use voiceover but that the footage of destruction is accompanied by original statements of the participants can also adversely affect the audience.
"I expected reactions, even worse than the ones seen so far. From my point of view, it would have been pointless if there weren't any," Knezevic stresses. One Croat critic objected that "Knezevic should have shown more political correctness when working on the film," as this film can be used by the Hague investigators to confirm the theory that the "'Storm' was consciously conducted ethnic cleansing". "When I worked on the film I did not take political implications into consideration," Knezevic responds. "It is not proper that foreign producers or foreign TV stations produce films about the Homeland War, and that this topic is avoided here". Besides, he adds, it would be pretentious to expect that this film would be valuable for the Hague Tribunal, as its investigators already have more important evidence than the one presented in the film.
Until 1991 Knezevic worked as a cameraperson at TV Zagreb. Early in the war he "left the job voluntarily to the satisfaction of both sides". For a while he worked for Yutel, and then became a freelancer. He was the first and only TV journalist to enter the burnt and devastated territory of Krajina two days after the start of the operation "Storm", just like, thanks to the indolence of Kosovac's Croatian TV, two years ago he was the only person to film the attack of the extremists, brawling and throwing of tear gas at the anti-fascists gathered at Victims of Fascism Square. He thought a lot about the way in which the Croat audience would receive his film about the burning of Krajina, but he is not displeased by its reactions.
"There were protests, but only by a few individuals, practically by one of two members of the audience. All others watched the whole film and they were shocked by it, which is understandable," Knezevic says, explaining that there was no discussion of the less glorious sides of the war in Croatia. The HTV systematically ignored the crimes, while only some media, such as Feral Tribune, Nacional and Novi List dealt with this topic.
To the objection that Croat crimes after the "Storm" were only a reaction to Serb crimes, Knezevic responds by saying that it would be pretentious of him to deal with Dubrovink, Vukovar or other Serb crimes within the film addressing crimes in Krajina. "This objection is as acceptable as the criticism of the author of a documentary about Vukovar that he did not in parallel address the Jasenovac story," the author of "Storm Over Krajina" explains.
"I lost all illusions about the HTV on the day I resigned," Knezevic says, adding that the Croatian state-controlled TV should follow the example of the Serbian state TV. RTV Serbia broadcast a month ago a documentary film about Serb crimes in Srebrenica and on the eve of the extradition of Milosevic to the Hague, independent TV station B92 broadcast films about crimes in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. "However," Knezevic concludes, "perhaps the HTV is bothered the most by the fact that my film documents the way HTV reported events in 'Storm' and afterwards."
In any case, film "Storm Over Krajina" has been put away for safekeeping. Since the HTV purchased broadcasting rights for this film, it can decide on its own what to do with it. It can broadcast it in a month, in four years, or never. All for the sake of preserving the clear conscience of the nation.