June 26, 2018 Scream for Me Sarajevo (Documentary Review)
Between leaving Iron Maiden in 1993, then returning in 1999, Bruce Dickinson embarked on a solo career. Well, kind of. He started up a short-lived band called Skunkworks, with the intention of debuting with a self-titled album. The man got to experiment with his Rock sound, going into more grungy, Alt-Rock territory after years of Heavy Metal. By 1997, Skunkworks had disbanded, and Dickinson partnered up with then-former Maiden member Adrian Smith for his next solo album, 1997’s Accident of Birth. Whether Skunkworks’ work was an underrated success or deservedly obscure is another story for another time. The story told here is how Dickinson and his fledgling band ended up performing live in the middle of a war zone.
In 1994, in the middle of the Bosnian War, a British UN negotiator and a British Military officer thought the besieged capital of Sarajevo could do with some live music. Directed by Tarik Hodzic (Behar 2016) and written by himself and Jasenko Pasic (Zene s Broja 13 2009), Scream for Me Sarajevo details how they managed to convince Dickinson to come over. Not to mention how they could even set up a show amongst the mortar fire.
The film also features live interviews alongside original footage of the event. It was enough to earn the film 3 awards at the Sarajevo Film Festival, as well as the Best Feature Documentary award at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. Released in select cinemas on May 10, 2018, now fans can experience it from the comfort of home with a DVD & Blu-Ray set for Friday, June 29th via Eagle Rock Entertainment.
That said, it does not just cover how Dickinson and Skunkworks got into Sarajevo and put on a show. The film also covers the conflict affected Sarajevo and its citizens, and thus what the concert meant to those who attended it. They contrast how life was during the war to how it was before and after it.
It adds that extra dimension to the film, giving it that insiders’ edge as they talk to the concertgoers and photographers. That said, it also means the film is largely in Bosnian with English subtitles. There are a few parts in English, such as the interviews with Major Martin Morris and UN negotiator Trevor Gibson, amongst others. This is ultimately a Bosnian film about a surprising event during some of the darkest days in Bosnian history. It comes with the territory.
The interviews are handled by Prasic as he travels around Sarajevo to meet people in and around the city. Today, it has its affluent parts and run-down areas. The film is willing to contrast that with the siege footage, cutting shots of Prasic walking down the streets with scenes of citizens fleeing sniper fire. Or him walking by buildings peacefully with people trying to climb down the sides of them to escape a blaze. Yet, it also uses footage from underground stage productions to show how life went on amongst the carnage. It sets a fascinating stage, especially as the interviewees provide their own contrasting views on life during the conflict. Fear and death loomed large, but seemingly so did the will to live life to the fullest while it lasted.
Which is where Dickinson and the story of the show begins. He has come across as particularly lively in prior interviews (see the Extras on the Monty Python: Almost the Truth DVD boxset), and he is no different here. His recollections about how he got into Sarajevo, or how wartime Bosnians hitchhiked, amongst others, are particularly entertaining highlights. That is not to say he makes light out of serious situations, but he makes for an energetic interviewee. In turn, Prasic joins Gibson, Morris, and Alex Alena as they provide starker commentary on how dangerous the journey was back then.
The comparisons and contrasts of ups and lows, smiles and tears, can be intriguing as is. It is aided by some fine editing and camerawork. Sometimes it is comparing a location Prasic and co are exploring to footage of it from the war. Other times, it is providing a sweeping view of Mount Igman, or a view of Sarajevo from the hilltops. On one hand, it is a beautiful view, but on the other, it would have been a sniper’s prime position. The visuals provide as much food for thought as the given information does.
All this said, if there was a negative to the film, it would likely be how the soundtrack is used. This may be nitpicky, considering it consists of some great Iron Maiden songs and Dickinson solo tracks. They fit the given scenes when used for the most part and keep the film’s pace going. Some scenes have had their original audio scrubbed in favor of the soundtrack. It may sound smoother by comparison, but it may have been better if those scenes kept the original audio. There are still plenty of scenes that are kept as is, so it is not the greatest loss. Yet, it would have given the film an extra, more authentic touch if it did.
Regardless, the result is a fascinating and finely put-together film. Scream for Me Sarajevo has sweet music, lovely visuals, and plenty of intriguing information. It is harrowing one moment, then heart-warming, and even funny in parts. The makers do not schmaltz up the darkness, but nor do they put a downer on the bright moments. It hits the brain and the heart right in the sweet spots. As such, it should be a must-see for metalheads and movie-watchers alike. Thus, for these reasons, CrypticRock gives Scream for Me Sarajevo 5 out of 5 stars.