Director Viktor Portel presented the documentary film The Investigator to journalists, March 1, 2023, Prague. The film tells the story of former Hague Tribunal investigator Vladimír Dzur, who returns to the Balkans, where some of the most brutal war crimes were committed after World War II.
Prague – The documentary film The Investigator, directed by Viktor Portel, returns to clarifying war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s. Through the eyes of the long-time Czech investigator of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, the Netherlands, Vladimír Dzura, the film reflects on the perception of the events of that time by today's societies in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The film will be shown in domestic cinemas from Thursday, March 9. The creators presented it to journalists today.
Dzura was an ICTY investigator in 1995. In the film, after 25 years, he meets some witnesses of the massacre at the Ovčara farm near Vukovar, Croatia, and the ethnic cleansing committed by Željko Ražnatović, the commander of the Serbian Volunteer Guard, nicknamed Arkan. The mayor of Vukovar committed suicide after his arrest, Arkan was shot dead in the hotel lobby.
The former director of the hospital in Vukovar talks about the work of her colleagues in wartime conditions in the damaged basement of the medical facility. A survivor of the massacre in Ovčara remembers his own execution, one of the soldiers with his back to the camera describes how he saved several of his acquaintances from certain death. Some of the protagonists remain in the shadows, turn their faces away from the camera and are still afraid to reveal their identity.
The Serbian and Croatian prosecutors also get a say in the document. Both talk about the hatred they still face from some of their fellow citizens for their efforts to punish war criminals who are still considered heroes by a section of the public. The atmosphere of the film is enhanced by the work with music, and the rap song at the end credits is also interesting.
The film alternates between shots of Dzura today and at the time of the investigation, the testimony is complemented by numerous historical shots. According to director Portel, their use in the film was not a matter of course, as the archives charge high amounts for their acquisition.
The preparation of the film took almost four years, we went to the Balkans twice, Portel told ČTK. “The first time we selected respondents and filmed the interviews, the second time we devoted ourselves to the video recording itself, which was actually short, about 12 filming days,” added Portel. According to him, the inhabitants of the region are used to the presence of foreign film crews, but not to being asked about their opinion on the tribunal, on the “painful present”.
“Countries were definitely interested in convicting criminals of other nationalities and were quite proactive in doing so, but when it came to criminals from their own nations, there was no will at all,” says Portel.
Dzuro crimes in the Balkans investigated for over nine years, currently heads the office of the United Nations Office of Internal Affairs in New York. In the film, he admits to doubting whether he left the tribunal prematurely. On the other hand, he explains that a person washes away the smell of hundreds of rotting bodies, but they remain in his mind forever.
Portel is the head of film production of the non-profit organization Post Bellum, the film The Investigator is his feature debut. He is also the curator of interactive exhibitions at the Institute of National Remembrance. ČTK announced that his next project will be a documentary about the son of the hijackers of ČSA Flight 096 from Karlovy Vary, who in 1970 hijacked the plane to West Germany. Portel will focus on the fate of a boy who grew up without parents with the label of the son of kidnappers and emigrants.
The film The Investigator was co-produced by Czech Television, Croatian Television HRT and the Balkan branch of Al-Jazeera. According to Portel, the Croatian side in particular was helpful in searching for and addressing witnesses of historical events.