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Update: Thanks Damir! 20-May-2004

Airport Demining
We spent a day at a minefield next to Sarajevo’s main airport, where army deminers are working. The airport was close to part of the frontline during the war and mines were laid to control the movement of citizens, as well as military. The deminers are not working meters from the runway, as we saw in Kabul last month, but they have to cease work each time a plane lands or takes off. They told us some stories about their experiences with landmines and made us some wickedly strong coffee.

Dr. Vito Fontana

By the end of the week, the rain we escaped in the north had followed us to Sarajevo. Instead of filming the demining of the Olympic bob sled run on the side of a mountain overlooking the city, we talked to the NGO’s director. Dr. Vito Fontana is a fascinating character and gave us a great interview. In 1996, he abandoned his family weapons manufacturing business in Italy after a massive public campaign was launched against its engagement in the production and export of antipersonnel mines. Morally and ethically, Fontana said he came to the realization that he couldn’t go on. He has subsequently became heavily involved in efforts to remove mines from the ground, heading up demining operations by an Italian NGO called Intersos in BiH since 2001.

TV Footage

We also visited the Federation’s national Radio and Television network to view stock footage. One of the network’s directors agreed to give us free access to their archive in exchange for allowing them to screen the finished documentary on national television. We were after footage showing landmine production by the former Yugoslavia, but none is held by the station, even though most production factories were located in BiH. Like Iraq, BiH is a country that has been mined with its own mines. We were told to try looking in Belgrade. We were also after war-time footage of mine-laying or mine incidents, but during the war most footage shot was erased and taped over again due to a shortage of basic materials, such as Beta tape. This has been a common problem in several of the countries where we have worked. We did, however, come away with half an hour of news clips reporting on individual civilian mine casualties that have occurred in recent years.

Damir Atikovic

We finally interviewed our host, Damir Atikovic of Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), and got him to show us some of the common mines in BiH. Damir and most of the people we met in Sarajevo are about the same age as us, if a bit younger (like late 20s!) and we were struck by what they went through during their adolescence. Their stories of living in the city under siege or fighting in a war at the age of 18 were sobering and make our difficulties growing up seem quite trivial. We are grateful to Damir, Emir, Ermina, Samir, and Boyan for helping us with the filming and for their enthusiasm in the project. They especially liked the fact that musicians like Thievery Corporation and Fugazi are involved and said it is their dream for these bands to come and play in Sarajevo.

Check out:

Norwegian People's Aid

Article on Fontana