Film Review: THE STONE SPEAKERS (KAMENI GOVORNICI)(Canada/Bosnia/Herzegovina 2018)

The Stone Speakers Poster
The Stone Speakers examines the intersection between tourism and ideology in four post-war Bosnia and Herzegovinian towns.

Director:

Igor Drljaca

Writer:

Igor Drljaca

The old Yugoslavia and the new Yugoslavia.  The past and the present.  How anti-fascism was ridden of and the country that now enjoys the benefits from tourism.  THE STONE SPEAKERS is directed by Canadian based Igor Drljaca, examining the intersection between tourism and ideology in four post-war Bosnian and Herzegovinian towns.

In present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country still reeling from the civil war in the early 90s. The Bosnian economy never recovered, and the country remains divided. In order to cope, many towns have transformed themselves into unique tourist destinations that bring together history, religion, politics and folklore.  The tourist sites promoted are not only a reflection of peopleʼs attempts to make a livelihood but are also a means to promote and establish competing narratives about the countryʼs past, present and future. The Stone Speakers explores four towns in Bosnia-Herzegovina through their tourism, slowly unravelling

these competing narratives.

The four towns are:

1. MEDJUGORJE in Eastern Herzegovina became a site of considerable interest in 1981 after six children, who are referred to as visionaries, began to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary.  Te film includes sites with tourists and pilgrims visiting the town.  The town now attracts upwards of one million pilgrims per year.  Despite the foreign crowds, like the rest of Bosnia-

Herzegovina, the local population in the region continues to decline.

2. TUZLA is located in what was once the industrial heartland of North-eastern Bosnia. Sitting on massive salt deposits, it has been historically well-known for its production of salt, which has continued nearly uninterrupted for over a thousand years. The cityʼs manufacturing sector, much like other industrial infrastructure throughout the country, was criminally privatized

and closed in the post-war period.  The city authorities have taken advantage of sinkholes caused by the over-extraction of salt to create salt lakes that have tourists.  The portion on TUZLA is the most interesting of the 4 cities.

3. VISOKO has only recently received more widespread attention, stemming from claims that a complex network of pyramids, older than the ones in Egypt, has existed at the site since at least 12 000 BCE. The claims, made by Semir Osmanagic, have not been supported by the scientific community, but the town has continued to enjoy a tourism boom as a result. A wide network of tunnels has been unearthed beneath the pyramids, which have been integrated into a

tourist attraction.  This segment is quite informative as many do not know pyramids existed here.

4. VIŠEGRAD – is at the crossroads of empires, and until recently, it was a predominantly a Bosniak town.  This part is primarily history and the director Drljaca trees it as such.  Prior to the civil war in the 1990s, Bosniaks accounted for over 60% of the townʼs population, but most were ethically cleansed during the fighting. The city has never been able to fully recover since the war, and its demographic decline continues, driven in part by the poor socio-economic conditions of the region.

THE STONE SPEAKERS plays like both a history and geography lesson.  Director Drljaca has 12  residents speak about the 4 towns.  They stand alone and then speak amidst a background that ranges from landscape to architecture.  He has them remain in silence for a minute before speaking.  They speak slowly but the English subtitles often run too fast for the audience to read.

As artful and informative this doc is, it would be difficult to recommend it to any commercial moviegoer. THE STONE SPEAKERS is not the run-of-the-mill documentary.  The majority would likely not connect wth the director’s aim and find the film a complete bore.  The one user review on imdb claimed that THE STONE SPEAKERS is a really bad movie.  Though not entirely true, it is easy to see the reason that writer felt that way.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tcQ-dd-RJw

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