A review of the 2020 film “Quo Vadis, Aida?” about the massacre at Srebrenica

The break-up of the former Yugoslavia led to a number of brutal conflicts of which the worst was the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992-1996 – a country which I visited in 2007. Hollywood has shown no interest in this war but there was a British-made film in 1997 called “Welcome To Sarajevo” about the four-year siege of Bosnia’s capital city.

“Quo Vadis, Aida?” deals with one particular incident – an especially brutal one – in that conflict when, in July 1995 at the small town of Srebrenica, over 8,000 men and boys were massacred by Serb forces in spite of the fact that the location was supposed to a UN ‘safe haven’ under the control of Dutch blue-helmeted troops. 

This film is very much a locally-produced work which required the support of no less than 12 organisations to bring to the screen. It was shot locally with local actors and extras speaking local languages and at times the viewer can feel that it is almost a documentary.

The writer, producer and directer is Jasmila Žbanić, a Bosniak who was born into a Muslim family. The titular role is that of a local teacher turned interpreter Aida Selmanagić, played powerfully by Jasna Đuričić who is actually Serbian, a woman does everything she can to save her husband and two sons. 

We feel the fear but we never actually see the massacre in this restrained but compelling account that is deeply moving.

Catch it on Netflix when you’re not actually watching news of the invasion of Ukraine to be reminded of a previous war in contemporary Europe.


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