BRUCE DICKINSON - Scream For Me Sarajevo
May 9, 2018, a month ago
As much a historical documentary, as music film, the creators seek to initially set the tone, talking to artistic and musical folks about the situation in the former Yugoslavian capital (home to the Winter Olympics in 1984), prior to the war. The modern shots shows much of the decimated infrastructure remains in ruin, 2+ decades on. Granted, they were young (naive) and didn't really expect a real, bloody armed conflict. Their modern day recollections, including details of the moment it all became real (to them) are interspersed with home video and news camera footage. As is undoubtedly often the case, even the British UN peacekeepers (eventually) assigned to the area, had little, if any knowledge that this was an ethnic/religious battle, pitting neighbor against neighbor, in the streets of the city. Crazy scenes, like a tram full of commuters (all hunkered down in the windows) motors through the city, as tracer fire rips up young children and destroys buildings. Tanks and jets strafe townspeople trying to go about their daily routine, like trying to secure water, for drinking, cooking & bathing. Against this horrific backdrop (like many wartime victims before them), bits of "normalcy" returned. People, many of them young, risked their life to attend concerts staged in basements and Hair or other plays, performed shelled out theaters, despite no electricity. Paradoxically, some of the survivors claim the war era was the best part of their life, as the near-death existence made everyone appreciate life and lived it to the fullest, as any future seemed uncertain.
Kids starting forming bands, the sporadic power grid making practicing, recording, even listening to music precious moments. A group of bands formed an alliance to combat the madness and even filmed/recorded a "We Are The World" sort of charity plea, called "Help Bosnia Now". During a night of drinking, the Brit peacekeepers jokingly proposed having a gig, eventually getting ahold of Bruce Dickinson (who'd left Iron Maiden the year before). 25 minutes into the hour and a half, Bruce is finally onscreen, discussing the genesis of his once-in-a-lifetime gig. Eventually the young filmmaker/actor reunites all the particulars, back in Sarajevo, to remember and reminisce.
Foregoing safeties of a UN or military convoy (planned helicopter rides had been nixed and powers that be suggested canceling the whole mission into the city), Dickinson hatched a plan to go overland, in the back of unheated, yellow painted, canvas covered trucks run by some locals. No official papers, no military protections as they ran the gauntlet of the fighting's frontline. Entering the city of bombed out buildings, people living in whatever was left of their dwellings, often cooking outside, as snipers picked off civilians, day and night. Dickinson claims, "There wasn't a major building that wasn't a burned out shell." The UN guys relate their sense of powerlessness and these hardened military guys have trouble telling of the atrocities, almost 25 years, after the fact. The musicians get misty eyed too, speaking about the people they met.
Unlike normal concerts, there couldn't be pre-gig hype/publicity, least the enemy infiltrate/bomb the proceedings, yet still word of mouth (in the non-cell phone, no internet era) filled the joint. In the final ten minutes of the film, Dickinson returns to Sarajevo (at the time 21 years later), to reconnect with the people, visits the old venue, museums and cemeteries.
Subtitles are unavoidable, as most of the principles don't speak English. Under the circumstances, there's just glimpses of grainy live concert video (for copyright reasons, mostly Bruce speaking to the crowd). Don't let either dissuade you from investigating this intriguing piece of metal history. Reviewing it now, still brings the locals to tears. Sure, Bruce has mentioned some of what happened in his recent autobiography, but his is not the only perspective. There was a lone photographer, who shot seven rolls of b&w film, capturing the landmark event, which are utilized throughout. The soundtrack is comprised solely of Dickinson solo/Iron Maiden studio tracks. Amazing story!