Twenty- five years ago the Balkan conflicts ended with a fragile peace treaty. However, still until this day, a large amount of population struggles with the echos of the unprecedented violence that came to define the brutal wars and ethnic conflicts that lasted from 1992-1999. With the traumatic memories of the war still in active memory, we explore how artists from around the Balkans, and greater Europe, continue the difficult and painful task of recovering from the traumatic effects the conflict had on themselves and their communities. In a series of overlapping portraits, we cross the cemented ethnic lines and candidly follow the raw human stories of each artist as they produce new work and we are given a valuable insight into the devotion each protagonist has to overcoming their traumatic experiences and sharing their knowledge.
As these portraits cross we meet, performance artist and ex Bosnia Serb soldier Mladen Miljanovic. While we follow his charged and prolific approach, we see how he storms through the creation of new artworks; from the direct confrontation of his trauma as he wrestles a bull who was a symbolic gure in his war-torn childhood, too then showing the power of art to reconcile as he gathers veterans from all sides of the war to sing a united song on edge of a disused mine. Alongside Mladen we meet, Dirk Planert. Dirk, a German war photographer, who on returning to Bihac in Bosnia to find the subjects from his wartime photographs, finds himself caught in the midst of a new crisis when the migrant issue on the border explodes and leaves him alone on a former landfill site to help set up a migrant camp for up to 700 men. Meanwhile, across the border, Croatian born Jovana Popic launches an investigative study into what can be learned by interacting with artificial intelligence. In a series videos that document human to ai and ai to human interactions she begins to search the topic to try and better understand the universal psychological effects that stem from trauma. While all along, in one of the most underdeveloped parts of the region, Kosovo artist Petrit Halilaj returns to nature, as his work with plants searches to regrow roots of life in the Kosovo Vally that remain severed by the conflict.
Combined into a feature-length documentary, 25 winters’ combines these stories to allow the audience to connect with the human stories of each of the artists, whilst also helping to reframe a complex conflict, from the various standpoints and experience of each of the artists. It is from this nonjudgemental approach that it is intended to allow viewers to engage with a violent war and see candidly how it affected these individuals and shaped their artistic practice. And it is through this lens that viewers are given a gentle glimpses into the ungraspable emotions of traumatic memory that are stored in the minds, bodies and the land of the Balkans. This combination also gives the audience the chance to be inspired by these individuals, as they once again re-enforce the power of creativity to convert traumatic energy as well as change societies. However, as we join each protagonist on their journey, we are also reminded about a war and region that is too often forgotten and left to fend for themselves.
Directed by Greg Blakey and Mathilde Irrmann
Produced by Stephan Matthies
Co-produced by Greg Blakey
Co-production Koelakant & Introvert Films
Written and researched by Dennis Schmees
Supervising Psychologist. Heike Bill. (Academy for Trauma and recovery Berlin)
Approximate length 80-90 Mins.