Patria Mia – Nomad Direction
Posted on December 12, 2012
documentary by Duska Zagorac
>>I started off by making a film about the Chinese in Bosnia but in the process realized I was also making a film about the Bosnians in exile. At the same time, I found myself a mere observer of the new Bosnia, a society I no longer belonged to. So Patria Mia became almost like a letter to my lost country <<
Duska Zagorac, director
Here is the interview that I did with the director of the movie Patria Mia – Nomad Direction, Duska Zagorac, on transnational identities and Chinese community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The movie Patria Mia was part of the project „Bosnia and Herzegovina: In Search for Lost Identity“. What does lost identity mean for you?
The idea behind this project was that each director would make a film that would interpret the theme in a very personal way. This meant that the twelve films that were made as part of this project were all very different.
My own point of view was that of a Bosnian in exile, but probably more importantly of a Bosnian who comes from a nationally mixed and non-religous family. People like me were a natural product of multicultural former Yugoslavia but today are not only a remnant of a country that no longer exists but also a remnant of an abondoned idea. Post-war Bosnia is deeply divided and there is an increasing animosity towards mixed marriages.
So I would say that my own loss of identity is closely related to my inevitable acceptance of permanent exile.
How is the movie Patria Mia connected to your own identity?
At first I was attracted by the concept of being Chinese in Bosnia. Figuratively speaking it was how i would describe my own feelings during my first post-war trip to Bosnia. But as I got to know the characters, I realised that similarities were actually very real – the Chinese community in Bosnia was very much like the Bosnian community in exile.
Patria is a film about immigration and exile, but also an essay about my own journey back to Bosnia, both physically and spiritually.
Making a documentary is an intervention into social space. How do you see you role in this process?
As a filmmaker I am most interested in human nature. So if my films do make an intervention, it is on a very subtle level.
While filming Patria I took a very observational approach. The element of intervention came at the editing stage when I decided to put seemingly unrelated stories and themes together which then created a new point of view on a subject matter.
When Patria was screened in Sarajevo it was followed by a heated debate. I was very pleased because it meant the film succeeded in presenting its theme in a new light, it challenged its audience and made them think even though it was conceived as a very personal film.
How do you see Chinese community as part of Bosnian identity or/and society?
The Chinese community is part of the Bosnian society – that is a fact, but sadly they are perceived as a satellite entity. The first generation of immigrants seem happy to reinforce this as it makes them less visible and therefore less vulnerable in a notoriously intolerant society. What is interesting though is what is going to happen with the second generation of Bosnian-born Chinese.
How is Chinese community shaping and changing space?
The Chinese arrived in Bosnia very soon after the war. There was a shortage of basic goods so they saw an opportunity to sell their products at low prices. At the time, the country was still in ruins and these businesses were like pop-up shops in the midst of destruction. Over time the country was slowly rebuilt but the Chinese still kept their businesses very simple and basic.
When I was filming Patria, there was a definite sense that the Chinese were looking at their presence in Bosnia as temporary – all the characters were working very hard, supporting their families in China and saving up for their return. Many mentioned that their business was slowing down as Bosnia makes economic recovery and the competition is increasing.
So I think it remains to be seen whether the Chinese community occupied only a temporary space in post-war Bosnia or whether this was the beginning of a more permanent setlement.