Under fire: Woody Harrelson avoids the snipers in Welcome To Sarajevo
Never one to shy away from controversial movies or outspoken remarks, WOODY HARRELSON has travelled a long way from Boston's Cheers bar to the ruined streets of Bosnia for Welcome To Sarajevo. Words: Alan Morrison
During the 1980s. a cluster of movies emerged where the camera. not the gun. became the key weapon in ﬁghting war. These journalist-in-peril dramas placed big name stars at the centre of foreign disputes — James Woods In Salvador. Nick Nolte in Under Fire — opening the eyes of English-speaking audiences to human rights atrocities.
Even though the double whammy of several of
these films was revelation of the West‘s role in supporting brutal regimes. viewers could submerge themselves in a thriller plot knowing that they and their conscience were a safe distance away.
Such easy comfort is disturbed. however. when watching Michael Winterbottom‘s Welcome To Sarajevo. which follows an international group of reporters caught tip in the siege that destroyed the Bosnian city. Maybe that‘s because the dust barely seems to have settled in the Balkans; so when Winterbottom takes his cast and crew down the real.
ruined streets of Sarajevo. it sends a shiver of
authenticity down our spines.
‘I wasn't really well-educated on what was happening until I got over there.‘ reckons Woody Harrelson. who plays a cocky but caring American journalist. ‘In a lot of what I read. there was no certainty about who was right or wrong — these
'l believe that a"? "
that go on ~~ the vii-tats that United States gets involved in are racist wars in a
problems between Croatians and Serbians and Bosnians and Muslims had been going on forever. But getting over there. it‘s very clear cut who‘s right
and who‘s wrong. and you begin to see it's a case of
genocide. pure and simple. against an unarmed people.‘
Harrelson isn‘t an actor who pulls his verbal punches. The star of The People vs Larry Flynt has been forthright before in his support for the legalisation of marijuana and his criticism of America‘s approach to the Gulf War. and in 1996. he was arrested during an environmental protest. ln ll’e/(‘ume To Sarajevo. it‘s“ his character who gets to mouth some of the most damning lines. including one about how Western air strikes might have come a little sooner if it had been a case of Muslims overrunning Christians and not vice versa.
‘I felt it was an important point. you know‘." Harrelson insists. ‘I do believe that a lot of the wars that go on — the wars that the United States gets involved in — are racist wars in a way. No matter what (‘anada did. we‘re never going to invade. we'd work it out somehow. But Iraq. Panama. Vietnam. somehow we rationalise these.’
Experiencing the aftermath of the war first-hand wasn‘t an entirely depressing experience. however. and Harrelson points to the Sarajevans themselves as a source of optimism.
‘When I was there. I was really taken with the people.‘ he says. "l‘hey have an amazing resilience and spirit. I remember one night. we went to this bar where they had a theatre upstairs. The seats they used to sit on were from the air drops. They ran this theatre throughout the war and people would come while the shelling was going on. and sit there and watch theatre. Something about that had a major impact on me.‘
Watching ll’e/eome 'I‘o .S'arajevo in a cinema in Scotland doesn‘t hold the same dangers. but perhaps this film can bring us closer to the heart of Europe’s most shameful conflict since World War II.
Welcome To Sarajevo opens on Fri 21 Nov. See review on page 27.
The column that has its black tie already looked out.
THE BAFTA SCOTLAND AWARDS make their fourth biennial appearance in Glasgow on Sun 30 Nov, at a time when Scotland’s film and television industries have never enjoyed such a strong international standing.
Battling it out for Best Feature Film are Carla ’5 Song, Trainspotting and Mrs Brown, whose star Billy Connolly also receives a well- deserved Best Actor (Film) nomination. Joining him in that category are radge duo Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor, both for Trainspotting. Carlyle is also named in the Best Actor (Television) category for Hamish Macbeth, where he's in good company with The Crow Road's Joseph McFadden and Bill Paterson.
Trainspotting makes its bid for Best Actress (Film) in the shape of Kelly Macdonald, competing against Dame Judi Dench (Mrs Brown) and Juliet Cadzow (the short film Thicker Than Water). For The List's tip on who will win the Best Short Film award, turn to page 6 for the Famespotting feature on Lynne Ramsay and Gasman. The awards ceremony is broadcast on Scottish Television on Sun 30 Nov at 9pm.
EWAN McGREGOR, you might think, doesn't have time to sit down as he skips from one movie set to the next. However, Scotland's hottest young star wants to make sure that your rear end is parked in style now that he’s taken over from Robert De Niro (no less) as Honorary Patron of the Glasgow Film Theatre's Seat Dedication scheme. It's names - not bums - on seats that's the focus here, with individuals and companies invited to sponsor a perch in the main auditorium with a dedicated plaque for a donation of £350. Contact Liana Marletta on 0141 332 6535 for details.
Robert Carlyle as Begbie: up for a BAFTA
21 Nov—4 Dec 1997 TIIE US‘I’25