Documentaries are meant to show facts objectively, but when the narrative style loses personal accounts in its passivity viewer engagement is tested, if not abandoned entirely. Kameni Govornici (The Stone Speakers) examines four cities across Bosnia and Herzegovena who have rebranded themselves as tourist destinations following the fall of communism, installation of capitalism, and civil war resulting in an inert economy: Medjugorje becomes an international pilgrimage site, Visegrád honours writer Ivo Andrić, Visoko capitalises on its rumoured cosmic energy field, and Tuzla’s old salt mines become lidos at the cost of the neighbourhood. However, these soul-searching stories are lost in the film’s unchanging pace, which proves the film’s downfall.

The camera is observational to a fault, losing the personal accounts in passivity. The majority of the film consists of long stationary shots – always held for several seconds, sometimes distractingly off-kilter – giving viewers perspective of scale while keeping them uninvolved. The stories provided are deeply personal stories from theirs and their country’s pasts and unanswered questions interrogating personal and collective futures. However, they are delivered as voiceovers as the speaker stares into the camera from a distance, which hampers interest and investment in these tales. The only exception is the exploration of Tuzla’s anti-fascist uprising in 1941, which conveys the significance and momentum the rest of the documentary lacks. The inclusion of the ceremonies marking its 75th anniversary in 2016 allow viewers a glimpse of the city’s palpable pride in the humanity with which they faced nationalism and genocide.

Not short enough to be an engaging education piece nor dynamic enough to delve into the sociopolitical situation with deserving depth, Kameni Govornici’s powerful recounts of a changing Bosnia and Herzegovena are lost in its stasis. Had its cinematography been as active and urgent as its stories, it could have proved a powerful account.



DIRECTOR: Igor Drljača

WRITER: Igor Drljača

SYNOPSIS: Bosnia and Herzegovena’s cities rebrand themselves as tourist destinations following the fall of communism in the 1990s.