Missing Sarajevo

I know quite a lot about politics and world affairs, but I have to admit to knowing little about Yugoslavia, the breakup of the country and all the new countries that were formed back in the 1990s. I’m not sure even if I could tell you which country is which these days, not without looking it up. I know there’s a Bosnia, a Serbia, a Montenegro, and some others, right? I couldn’t even tell you who owns Sarajevo these days, if one country has it or if it is a divided city or what. Not even if there is still fighting going on. I’m actually a little embarrassed to say all this, now that I write it down. I don’t want to insult anyone, if anything I’m trying to show my own ignorance. I think the sad thing is that I consider myself well-read, and knowledgeable about world affairs. Guess I fail on this one.

Missing Sarajevo is a short documentary about U2 playing in Sarajevo in 1997 on the Pop tour, following a promise that Bono made to the people of Sarajevo that the band would come there. It highlights the reasons why, the way Bill Carter was able to convince the band to come, and how they did satellite linkups with Sarajevo during Zoo TV. It is interesting to follow the way they did things, although like I said the video is very short (less than 12 minutes long) so it can’t get into any kind of detail.

So during the siege of Sarajevo in 1993 Bill Carter (an aid worker) went to a U2 show in Italy, somehow got backstage to meet the band (can you imagine doing that? Pitching up to a show and saying hey, I’d like to talk to the band about something, I don’t know if I would get past the first security guard I ran into. Maybe if I stood in line outside and hoped to meet one of them, and maybe if I had a good enough cause). But he met them, and talked to them, and got them to promise to play in Sarajevo. They couldn’t at the time, but they did link to Sarajevo several times during shows.

Those links led to some awkward conversations as shown in the documentary. When one person on the screen, talking about the link and the publicity U2 is getting to them, says “What do you really do for us?” it kind of sucks the air out of the room. She is right in so many ways of course, the band wasn’t sheltering them, or ending things, although maybe they had some influence on it. But the idea of getting things back to normal was an ongoing thought during the video, so maybe it was something.

It was interesting to hear the narrator tell of people spending nights in bomb shelters listening to music to drown out the shells. It reminded me of when I went to Cardiff a couple of years ago, and toured the castle there, where people would go and sleep during the Blitz in World War 2. I don’t remember them talking about singing, but it was a very small glimpse into what they went through.

The funny part of the show was Bono in the car not remembering the words to Miss Sarajevo, and trying to sing somewhat mangled lyrics. That was certainly a smile during the sadness that the video projected.

I’m not going to give this a rating. It’s too short to really deserve one, but also because a rating would kind of cheapen the feeling of the documentary. It’s there to show one of the results of a tragedy, and I think to rate it would make it feel like something like this should be rated.