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Film / Quo Vadis, Aida?

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Quo Vadis, Aida? ("Where are you going, Aida?") is a 2020 film from Bosnia and Herzegovina directed by Jazmila Zbanic.

It is about the infamous Srebrenica massacre, the only incident of genocide in Europe since World War II, in which some 8000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men were murdered by Bosnian Serbs. As the film starts, conditions in Srebrenica are already desperate. A Serb army advances on the town, while Bosniaks in Srebrenica flee in panic. The city has been declared a "safe area" by the United Nations, but it is clear that the UN doesn't have the political will to use force to protect Srebrenica. In the tiny garrison at the UN base of Potocari, a battalion of Dutch soldiers ("Dutchbat") is outnumbered and low on equipment.

Aida Schmanagic, a former schoolteacher, is an English-language translator with the UN force at Srebrenica. As the situation deteriorates with the Serbs reaching the UN base, Aida is gripped with fear for her menfolk, her husband Nijad and her sons Sejo and Hamdjia. She manages to get them inside the UN base even after the panicking Dutch have sealed it off to any more refugees, but it slowly becomes clear that there is no escape, no one is coming to help, and the Serbs are intent on committing an unspeakable crime.


  • Blatant Lies: Mladic claims that he doesn't intend to kill any civilians and he even adds that he's planning to bring them to safety in the Bosnian territory. Obviously that's all a bunch of lies since he actually wants to kill them all. This was sadly and chillingly truth in real life.
  • Broken Bird: Aida at the end of the film.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The Bosnian Serb civilians just look at trucks carrying Bosniaks men and children playing near the gym where the mass killings took place.
  • Childhood Friends : Chamila, one of the three Bosniaks send to negotiate with the Serbs, knows one of the Serbian soldiers since they were kids. Despite she claims they were only just friends it's implied that the soldier had some romantic feelings for her.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Aida shares a long look with a driver of one of the buses, who is smoking a cigarette with a shaking hand and a look of shock on his face. It's clear that the buses aren't going to safety.
  • Downer Ending: Also Foregone Conclusion. Aida's husband and sons are murdered along with 8,000 other Bosniaks. She goes back to an empty apartment. Apparently she's able to evict a Serb family from what was her home, but one of the perpetrators of the massacre lives in her building, making clear that most of the murderers of Srebrenica escaped justice.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: It's a little vague, but the film doesn't seem to take place over more than 24 hours. Sejo mentions a date of July 11, and in Real Life the Serbs began separating out the men from the women and children and taking them out in buses on the 12th.
  • Fade to White: The screen fades to white after Aida's husband and sons are murdered along with a whole group of Bosniak men. This also functions as something of a Match Cut as when the movie cuts to the Distant Finale, it's in winter and Aida is on a road in the snowbound countryside.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mladic acts like he's going to do the honorable thing while at the negotiation meeting, saying that the civilians in Srebrenica will be sent to Bosnian territory. But he treats the Bosniaks with barely concealed contempt, addressing the woman among them by the wrong name twice, while cowing Col. Karremans into submission. It is clear that his promise of humane treatment is only lip service.
  • Flashback: A brief flashback to happier times, before the war, shows Aida at a party with some ridiculous puffed-up hair, participating in an "Eastern Bosnia's Best Hairstyle 1991-92" contest.
  • Handshake Refusal: The Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica talking with Col. Karremans in the opening scene refuses his outstretched hand, because he doesn't believe Karremans' promise that the UN will send air strikes against the Serbs. He's right.
  • Hate Sink: Mladic, his right hand Joka and most of the Serbian soldiers are portrayed as cruel, sadistic and genocidal supremacists who while not participating in war crimes act like dicks towards the Bosniak civilians and the Dutch military. So, yeah, it's perfectly alright to hate them.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: An aggressive Serb officer named Joka comes to the gate at Potocari, and demands to be let into see if there are any Bosniak soldiers there. The frightened UN soldier says in English that there aren't any soldiers inside, followed by Joka looking over at his buddy and saying in Serbian, "He says there are no soldiers—motherfucker!" (Of course, while the UN soldier can't understand what Joka said, Joka's aggressive tone is quite clear.)
  • Historical Domain Character: General Ratko Mladic, who was later sentenced to life in prison for the war crime he ordered at Srebrenica. Also Col. Karremans, the vacillating, frightened commander of the Dutchbat, and his junior Major Franken.
  • Newhart Phone Call: A decidedly non-humorous example. Col. Karremans is shown on the phone to his UN superiors, asking for support, asking for the air strikes, and growing increasingly agitated as no one in command is there to take his call and tell him what to do.
  • Pervy Patdown: Of the three Bosniak civilians sent to "negotiate" with Mladic, one is a female accountant. The guard outside the room runs his hands inside her skirt and up her legs in a very gross way as his buddy chortles with amusement. (This is probably a reference to the mass rape that went along with the mass murder after Srebrenica fell.)
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Mladic's interpreter and one of the bus drivers has no grudge towards the Bosniak civilians and the latter is obviously sorry for what the Serbs are planning to do to them. Also, one of the Serbian soldiers is a former student of Aida and he doesn't seem to be particularly cruel and blood-thirsty. Another Serbian soldier knews Chamila, one of the Bosniak "negotiators", since they were kids and giving his sad and gloomy look he's remourseful for what's in store for her.
  • Questioning Title?: Quo Vadis, Aida? The title is an allusion to the novel Quo Vadis, a story about the persecution of Christians under Nero.
  • Screaming Birth: A woman gives birth inside the Potocari base, in a scene that demonstrates the chaotic conditions inside the camp.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Aside some exceptions mentioned above, great part of the Serbian soldiers are sadistic and murderous monsters with no good qualities at all.
  • Time Skip: At least six months pass between the massacre and Aida's return to Srebrenica, since the Dayton Accords ending the war were signed in November and there's snow everywhere when she comes back.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: It's made perfectly clear that the UN promise of Srebrenica being a safe haven, and in fact any UN protection, is worthless if the UN isn't willing to do anything about it by actually, say, shooting at Serbs. When a UN soldier tells Aida that her husband and sons have to get on the buses and says "Don't make me use force!", she says "Use it!," because the Serbs will kill her menfolk anyway.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Serbs plan to kill the Bosniak children as well along with the men and the women.