Emilija and Josip Bodružić sit on the couch, bickering like any other old married couple, while they tell their grandson stories of their past. This might normally be an unspectacular scene if it wasn’t for two facts: their grandson Bojan Bodružić is a Vancouver-based filmmaker who’s recording every second, and their stories are filled with the deep trauma of war and incredible loss—loss of youth, of family, of a motherland, of a country they once knew.
Their stories are about the Second World War, the collapse of Yugoslavia, and the shrapnel and bullets flying over their heads in their home of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
At first, the narrative of this film seems to be about these historical events, but it soon becomes clear that it is more deeply personal than it is historical. Bodružić and his parents left Sarajevo during the war in 1992, and the family has been in B.C. ever since, leaving his grandparents behind. Bodružić did not go back until 2000 when he first began to film his grandparents telling their stories and the story of his family. The first footage Bodružić had of his grandparents was of a video greeting they sent to their family overseas, full of well wishes and an endearing hope for them to come visit.
The project took 15 years to complete and the product is deeply moving, proving that sometimes no greater review is necessary than the emotions felt in the audience. There were a number of Bosnians and others from the Balkans in the audience that night, who came partly with the deep yearning that those in diaspora often carry: to recognize their stories on the screen and to, in turn, feel recognized. With Bodružić’s work, that feeling of recognition was certainly present. There were tears and grief, but, in the face of these stories of war and suffering, there was much more laughter than anything else. What Bodružić captured was the dark Balkan humour that has kept those in the area resilient and indestructible. He captured everything—the bickering, the family dynamics, the struggle for identity and connection to one’s family and homeland—so immaculately that the audience’s reaction was felt even in the darkness of the theatre.
The Museum of Forgotten Triumphs is both sharply specific to the Bosnian experience and universal in its themes, making it impressively versatile and a necessary film to watch. Something in the film will speak to you; it will either serve as a lens for viewing a different experience, or as a mirror, speaking your experiences back to you.
The Museum of Forgotten Triumphs screens on October 10th at International Village Cinemas. Tickets and showtimes can be found here.