As a subject, Tabakovic was an irresistible hook: a man who could reminisce about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Nazi occupation, and the entire lifespan of socialist Yugoslavia. Living his last years in the rubble of 1990s Sarajevo, he didn’t even know what was going on. “Who is shooting? he asks Cerkez in the film. “What is this country called now? »
“He lived his whole life there, and he probably died in that bed where I interviewed him,” she recalls today. “He lived in one house, but in five different countries.”
This interview was the genesis of the film. In 2015 – this time on the 100th anniversary of the assassination – Cerkez told visitors to the Rockefeller Foundation about his meeting with Tabakovic. Fascinated, and no doubt charmed by her talents as a storyteller, they invite her to write a screenplay. Cerkez agreed – but for her, the story needed to resonate today. “They wanted to show how terrible the history of the city is. Okay, any tour guide can tell you that,” she says. “When people watch this, they’re not going to get any smarter. I want to tell them something else.
That’s why, at her insistence, the film’s key scene recreates her last conversation with Tabakovic – the moment she realized her journalism had value, and what it was.
Bribed by the offer of a rare chocolate bar, the initially reluctant old man had warmed to the young reporter. Driven by his questions, she found herself telling him about her own life, admitting that she no longer saw the point of staying in Sarajevo. “It’s been going on for two years, and I don’t know if it’s ever going to stop,” she says in the film. “I think I will be leaving soon. I’ve had it up to here. I write and nothing happens.
It was then that the retired railroad worker told him something that would change his life. After World War II, Tabakovic recalls, he spoke with a Croat about wartime disappearances. “I asked him, he said, how did you feel when they took your dearest neighbors and friends to kill them in these camps? “We didn’t know,” the man had said. »
“Maybe they didn’t,” Tabakovic told Cerkez. “Because no one was writing about it.” That, he tells her as she tucks him back into bed, is why she has to keep covering the Bosnian war. “You, my Aida, must write about this. And publish it, immediately! So that no one after that can ever say “I didn’t know”.