The Bosnian capital’s first Gay Pride celebration in 2019 provides the dramatic backdrop for Ado Hasanović’s short documentary, selected for Sarajevo FF.
“Some are born in the name of love and some in the name of hate,” we are told early on in Ado Hasanović’s Let There Be Colour. “Here, we usually say that you were born either before or after the war.”
The ‘hate’ which the film points to is the seemingly high levels of homophobia that organisers, participants and supporters were forced to suffer during the run-up to Sarajevo’s inaugural Gay Pride march in September 2019. Bile and vitriol is expressed not only by reactionary, ageing country types (plenty of whom we meet in the film) but also by young and ostensibly trendy city dwellers.
As a farmer articulates his repugnance of gay pride as “filthy and redundant”, a young woman, who tells us she is Muslim, stresses how the protest is alien to her faith. Four older men, who seem to be friends, initially offer refreshing relief from discrimination until they are asked how they would feel if there was a gay person in their family. He would be “slaughtered,” they laugh.
Hasanović, from Srebrenica, was working on a film about his father (who survived the 1995 massacre) when he heard about the upcoming Pride March. He put the other film on hold to concentrate on the new work.
“I was frustrated to be honest with so much online violence and homophobic comments about people in the LGBT communities,” says the director. “So I decided to make this movie, and it was very particular, because there were so many tensions. So many people told me to be careful because some people were ready to fight. They were writing some very bad things about gay people, like they should be killed, they should be taken away from this country.”
Hasanović explains how his country is rooted in powerful religious beliefs and whose complex history contributes significantly to the intolerance we see in the film. “We lived under the Roman, then the Ottoman period, then Austro-Hungarian, then Yugoslavia and through all these centuries we were adapting to different ways of living, and of course we never had freedom like today, and people were used to living under those restrictions. The major religion is Islam, then Christianity and Orthodox Christianity, all of which are very powerful in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
One of the film’s characters dismisses out of hand those folk who want Bosnia to be part of an EU that espouses tolerance. “We don’t need that kind of Europe,” he spits out. What is surprising was that interviewees in the film were very happy to go on camera to articulate their prejudices, the director adds.
The film inevitably climaxes on the day of the march as supporters, protesters and armed police muster in the centre of the city (no spoilers as to how events transpire), but before this Hasanović seeks to underline the overall sense of celebration that the march represents with a series of cultural tableaus. These include performances by a solo cellist and French horn player, and expressive dance routines by a mysterious young woman in a red dress and a cross-dressing street performer, a man well-known on the streets of Sarajevo.
Hasanović says he has seven hours of footage, and hence is looking to cut a long version of the film.
One of the final voices in the film belongs to an activist who expresses joy that the march has gone ahead, at the same time offering wise and gentle advice to the bigots and detractors who opposed it. “The remedy for love is to love more. Why not the [same] remedy for hate? To love more,” he suggests.