Welcome to Sarajevo: The Film That… I Will Never Forget

The power of cinema lies in the effects films have on people. Films can make you cry, laugh, alter your opinions, influence you, be representative of a milestone in your life and can even change your life. Our new weekly film column, ‘The Film That…’, explores the impacts of cinema on people. This week, Fiona Carty explains why Welcome to Sarajevo is the film that she will never forget.

I don’t actually remember how old I was when I first saw Welcome to Sarajevo. I think I was around 16, but that film has stuck with me ever since, and has even shaped some of my views on the world.

The film is based on the story of Michael Nicholson, a journalist working for ITN during the Bosnian war. In the film journalist Michael Henderson reports on the war and evacuates 200 orphans out of the country to safety. Michael had promised one of the children, Emira, that he would help her escape to safety, but there is a problem because the girl’s mother is still alive so technically cannot be evacuated.

It also shows the problems that come with reporting. Henderson is told more than once that he should not be getting involved, but he does, and in real life Michael Nicholson received much criticism for his actions.

Being a journalist was always in the list of jobs I thought about doing, but war reporting in particular grabbed my attention. On the TV the two or three minute reports made it look exciting, editing out the real brutality so that those watching at home didn’t have to see extensive blood and gore while eating their tea. This film was the first film I saw about war and war reporting that does not glamourise it in any way. Brutal from the outset, the film includes actual footage of the war. I knew that war is terrible, but Welcome to Sarajevo gave me an idea of the special kind of hell that war creates. It also showed me that to get through something terrible, you have to keep going.

There is nothing new about this film. It does not make any grand statements, nor does it make an overtly emotional point. But what it does not have in extroversion, it more than makes up for in an understated yet passionately controlled anger. It grabbed hold of me and did not let go, and even now when I watch news reports about war and refugees I am reminded of Welcome to Sarajevo.