…just as sweet.
A Sarajevo Rose is a local Bosnian euphemism, cynical code for the shrapnel indentations left in the concrete from 120 mm Russian mortars lobbed by Serbian military, scars which look like imprints of roses. Roger Richards chose this ironic image as the title for his film chronicling the aftermath of the siege of Sarajevo.
Sarajevo Roses moves through the story of not only the city’s siege but the entire labyrinth of the Bosnian crisis, as if the film itself were being pursued by snipers. Director Richards–a critically acclaimed AP photographer–created the film over almost a quarter of a century, and by doing so the story takes on an almost opera-esque quality. Films done by photographers can get lost in the cloud sequences, so to speak, but Richards sprints us through alleys, under bridges, and into bombed-out buildings in such a way that his visual poetry never replaces what was a horrific event–one that targeted anyone the Serbs caught in their crosshairs.
Like Alice in Wonderland in reverse, Richards pops us out of those dark memories with sadly beautiful stories of those who remain: survivors of an orphanage, a musician who once played for an audience of bullets, a doctor whose internship was the gruesome task of repairing those unlucky enough to experience a Sarajevo Rose, and finally, an impossible-to-forget sequence involving one of the symbols of the Bosnian genocide: a woman sprinting for her life along a train line, late for her job as a bank teller.
It is impossible to call a film about genocide lyrical, but Richards has captured the resilience of a people who would not allow themselves to be extinguished. Their lives now punctuate one of the darkest moments of our time with hope, but there is an echo to this melancholy, a ringing in our ears like living imprints of the “Sarajevo Roses” for which the film is named.
John Singleton is writing a book about international film, to be published by Blue Ear Books.