[wzslider]By Medina Malagić
Sabina Vajraća is a young and talented woman who possesses a multitude of talents. Born and raised in Banja Luka, she left B&H when the war began in 1992 and settled with her family in the US. She began writing poetry at a young age and had always been a voracious reader, and she eventually moved on to cultivate a passion for theatre. Her first documentary was called Back to Bosnia and it focused on issues that are still pertinent in B&H society today, the issue of refugee return and reclaiming property in post-war B&H. Sabina currently lives in New York.
In your documentary ‘Back to Bosnia’, you deal with some heavy issues that many people throughout B&H were forced to endure during the conflict. Can you speak to us about what specific techniques you used to convey to the audience the magnitude of the brutality that occurred here during the early 1990’s, since the documentary takes place in post-war B&H?
Making Back to Bosnia was very emotional. I had not really been back home until then and was immediately flooded by many suppressed memories, which I didn’t really have the time to process because my parents and my crew demanded my full attention. So instead I focused on the people we came across and started asking them all the questions that I was too busy to ask myself. In the end it was these people, their somber words and, mostly, silent faces that said everything I needed for the story to come through.
Can you speak to us about some of your fondest memories growing up in B&H? Have you been back since you left in 1992? If so, how would you describe the changes you witnessed?
I was born and raised in Banja Luka, surrounded by a huge family full of love. So in some way my childhood was really idyllic. I also had great friends, some of which I managed to keep all the way into adulthood, including Dana, my best friend since I was 5 years old.
My first trip back was in 2002. It was a huge emotional shock that eventually inspired me to make Back to Bosnia. The biggest change in Banja Luka was that people seem to be full of hate instead of love that was there before. Everyone was a victim and everyone blames someone else for his or her situation. I didn’t feel welcome and left as quickly as I could.
I’ve been back since, but the feeling of unwelcome stayed with me. I love Bosnia with all my heart, and hope that one day I can feel at home here again.
How did you get into writing, and then eventually expand your interests to film making and theater? From where do you draw your inspiration(s)?
I started writing as a kid. Poetry was first, then short stories, and even a novella by the time I was 12. I loved writing and reading, getting lost in worlds of my imagination. That love eventually led me to theatre, which is yet another level – seeing the world I imagine come to life in front of me is truly magical. Film was a natural next step, as a way to capture that in a more permanent way.
I still draw a lot of inspiration from my imagination and dreams, but most of my work these days comes from questions of identity and home. Having lost mine at such an early age, I am forever fascinated with characters who are unsettled and rootless, and who battle their inner demons on a daily basis.
The artist whose works inspires me the most is Balasevic. His songs are really just poetry set to music and influence a lot of my own thoughts and ideas.
Why do you consider film making to be such an important medium in conveying a particular message, and what messages do you wish to transmit to a wider audience?
Film has an element of magic in it, which I was always fascinated with. It is also a permanent document of an idea, a dream, and a vision. Something that captures my state of mind in one part of my life. I always find it fascinating to compare films to filmmakers’ biography and see what inspired them to tell that particular story at that particular time of their life.
My filmmaking motto comes from an American screenwriter Stephen Gyllenhaal who said, “An artist’s job is to disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed.” I tend to gravitate towards ideas that are difficult for people to handle, and seek ways to make it easier for them to do so.
I guess the only message I have in my work is that if my characters can handle it, so can you. I hope my audience finds inspiration in that.
Do you feel that now your identity has more of a multifaceted character since you moved to the US? How would you describe the way in which you define and experience your identity?
Absolutely. Identity is a tricky issue that all of us who left Bosnia during the war struggle with. After 19 years in USA I am definitely an American as much as I am a Bosnian. It took me years to accept this. I rejected one, then the other, then both, until I settled into something that makes sense to me now. If I was a house, my foundation and first floor would be traditional Bosnian, my second floor general American and the third very New York. I look forward to seeing how I grow from here.