Posted on April 1, 2009
Milosevic on Trial
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”Trailer”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZwbGF5ZXIudmltZW8uY29tJTJGdmlkZW8lMkYxOTU5NTY4MzYlM0ZieWxpbmUlM0QwJTI2cG9ydHJhaXQlM0QwJTIyJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI5NjUlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjI1MDAlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjB3ZWJraXRhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4lMjBtb3phbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4lMjBhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4lM0UlM0MlMkZpZnJhbWUlM0U=[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Milosevic on Trial, by Michael Christoffersen, is the first documentary to go behind the scenes at the Hague and follow the historic trial of the former Yugoslav leader for crimes against humanity.
Commisioned by TV2 Denmark and co-produced by BBC, NRK Norway, RTBF, SVT Sweden, TSR, VPRO-Television, YLE TV2 Documentaries and ZDF Arte and the Canadian broadcaster SBS.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Milosevic on Trial wins the 2007 EBU Golden Link Award.
“The surprising thing about this documentary is that it keeps you ‘glued’ to the screen even if it is entirely based on court room proceedings and discussions between lawyers. The director made an effective story, providing unique insight into the biggest war crimes trial since Nuremberg.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″][wi_image image=”3008″ img_size=”full”][wi_gap height=”40″][vc_separator][wi_image image=”3011″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was the first incumbent head of state in history to be indicted by an international court. His trial before the Hague Tribunal began in 2001 and lasted four years, rehashing the most disturbing aspects of the crimes perpetrated during the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia, where three million people were displaced, 125,000 were killed, and the European community faced the reality of mass graves and ethnic cleansing for the first time since World War II. Director Michael Christoffersen documented the entire serpentine path of the trial. His exclusive access not only to the courtroom but the key attorneys resulted in more than 2,000 hours of courtroom footage and 250 hours of interviews. In Milosevic On Trial, he distills it masterfully into an unflinching look at the savagery of war and the trail of misery left in its wake. The proceedings are both weighty and dramatic. Milosevic is confident and staunch in his refusal of a court-appointed attorney on the grounds that the trial is illegal. A key witness for the prosecution changes testimony mid-trial. Heartbreaking video footage surfaces. Christoffersen handles all of the material adeptly,cutting from the courtroom to evidence-gathering in the field and back. Gregory Nice, the British attorney and lead prosecutor racing against time to make his case, and Dragoslav Ognjanovic, Milosevic’s lawyer and friend who worries over the failing health of the man he calls a hero, face off in compelling ongoing interviews. With Milosevic on Trial, Christoffersen presents a spellbinding glimpse into the mechanics of the burgeoning international court system, born from the Nazi-prosecuting Nuremberg trials.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][wi_image alignment=”alignright” image=”3009″ img_size=”full”][wi_gap height=”40″][vc_separator][wi_image alignment=”alignright” image=”3010″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”MILOSEVIC ON TRIAL: CUTTING WORLD HISTORY” txt_align=”center” shape=”square”]The historic trial of Slobodan Milosevic, ending in worst-case scenarios, presented daunting cutting-room challenges.[/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in March 2006, during his trial at the Hague war crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, robbing us of the conclusion to one of the most important trials of the century. The verdict, which could have been a historical touchstone and turning point, never came. Having followed and documented the trial for the four years that it ran, Team Productions now had to find a new central thread in thousands of hours of footage.
Michael Christoffersen, the director, chose to see artistic potential in not having a predetermined outcome: dramaturgically, the material was more open to interpretation now. “Had the trial continued on course and a verdict been reached, the conclusion would have been generally known and that would have been like knowing the score in advance,” he says. “The dramaturgy would have been expected to lead to that conclusion, which would have confined the story a lot.
“That line was broken, of course, when Milosevic died and there was no conclusion,” Christoffersen says. “No one was willing to wager one, so I had to sit down and interpret the material. There were both advantages and disadvantages to that. One advantage was that it allowed me to relate more freely to the material.” He followed the trial daily online or in the courtroom for the four years that it ran.
The director was dealing with an enormous amount of material: thousands of hours of courtroom footage from fixed cameras operated by producers affiliated with the tribunal, plus his own crew’s shots of the defence attorneys, prosecutors and other participants in the trial.
Christoffersen continually took notes during the trial and kept a log of interesting situations, which included the witnesses and the defendant himself, Milosevic, who acted as his own attorney assisted by a team of Serbian lawyers. Those notes turned out to be a huge help in the editing process.
“I felt that the story really got good at the point when Milosevic took up his own defence,” Christoffersen says. “Relating less all the time to the actual charges against him, he blustered and speechified about politics and conspiracy theories instead. In this self-revelation, he showed how little he was really able to deal with the trial. So we cut it down and selected the witnesses that I thought best illustrated the proceedings. As we cut it down from eight hours to four hours, we more clearly began to see the bones of a story. I had other sets of eyes on it too, because there were times when the editors and I became swamped in footage. “At one point, we decided to write the whole thing out, as we would have done for a film with a voiceover – which turned out to be a good idea because it gave us a much more precise narrative structure,” he says.
To Christoffersen and producer Mette Heide of Team Productions the driving idea with the Milosevic project was to explain and analyze a historical event, offering behind-thescenes glimpses at what went on in the courtroom. The crew wanted to get close to the key participants, their strategies and schemes, and reveal the human drama, while describing the personal victories and defeats that played out.
“I picked the witnesses and situations that were both crucial and dramatic – there were a lot of very tiresome witnesses, meanwhile, I didn’t play down the basic notion that the one person who really brought down Milosevic, had he ever been convicted, was Milosevic himself. Once I reached that conclusion, everything became much clearer.”
“We broke the chronology in certain places, but only to simplify the story. The main idea was to produce a historical and dramatic document,” the director says.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]The volume and complexity of the material necessitated a monstrous task of pruning, and gleaning essential footage that also had dramatic potential.
“After all, this isn’t bicycle theft we’re dealing with but three and a half wars with nation-founding and political showdowns – a historically very complex sequence of events, with one party, Milosevic, trying to turn the whole thing into a political process, and the other party, the prosecution, seeking to make it a criminal case with Milosevic on trial for killing people,” Christoffersen says.
“We decided to pin down Milosevic’s responsibility. And we went for the duel aspect of the criminal case, even as Milosevic was constantly trying to make it a struggle to tell the Serbian version of the story. Ultimately, Milosevic himself gives the game away, essentially crafting his own defeat,” the director says.
“There’s a good story in that, basically: the prosecution is unable to come up with the evidence, and it’s only when Milosevic takes up his own defence that he slips up, letting the prosecutor in on important information,” Heide says. “The criminal exposes himself.”
“It was condense, condense, condense,” Christoffersen says. “The more we cut, the easier it got. Gradually, the details became apparent. Still, there’s a lot of amazing material we would have liked to use. It was a reductive process a good deal of the way, until everything began to get clearer.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][wi_image alignment=”aligncenter” image=”3165″ img_size=”Full”][/vc_column][/vc_row]