Tears of Bosnians blown away like leaves

17th January 1997 at 00:00
Mirad, A Boy From Bosnia, Channel 4, Monday, January 6 and 13, Age range: 14-16

We're sorry . . . sorry," a refugee from Sarajevo says at the opening of this story. "Sorry we're here, sorry we're such a mess . . ." At first the hosts are politely defensive, but as Mirad's story is haltingly, painfully pieced together, their attitude changes. They reach out their hands and brush tears away. So will many adults who see this film, based on the play by the Dutch writer, Ad de Bond.

We weep for the tale it tells, and for the way the horrors of this century have blunted hopes and sensibilities. Then we switch channels and think of other things.

Which is why it is so important that this film was made not for the network but for schools. Children, once they are adjusted to a deliberately laboured opening sequence, as the refugees struggle with their memories and an unfamiliar language, will be held by its images and by its deceptively simple words. In some of them, certainly, a deeper understanding will take hold.

The scene is Holland, 1993. Djuka and Fazila, middle-class, middle-aged and married, are refugees from Sarajevo. "We didn't run away," Djuka says. "We were blown away, like the leaves from the trees." He is Muslim, she is Croatian - "but that never used to matter". Their story - "It's all that we have" - is of what happened to their 13-year-old nephew Mirad, who fled to them when his parents were seized and his sister was killed by a mortar shell.

It's a beautiful, painful story, as much about identity, relationship and loss as about the casual brutalities of war. With help from teachers, adolescents will respond to it at this level.

Jeremy Irons, who directed the programme, is absolutely right as Djuka, gaunt and hollow-eyed, angry and withdrawn. Sinead Cusack is superb as Fazila, more hurt and more resilient than her husband. Mirad we encounter only as a voice, but the voice, like the grainy flashbacks, often black and white, and the still familiar newsreel clips, tell us of happenings that we should not easily forget.

Mirad, a Boy from Bosnia gets to the heart of what it means to be a refugee, and to have nothing at all but a story to tell. Interestingly, in the film it's the children in the household who respond to it first. One of them climbs on to Fazila's knee. Perhaps it is just as much the listeners' story, after all.

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