In Jean BaumgartnerThe feature debut of, “DNA of Dignity”, which stars in the newcomer competition at Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary festival, the Swiss nurse turned filmmaker follows a team of forensic scientists who, in the anonymity of mass graves, search for the last usable traces of human DNA in the hope of restoring the victims’ names and their dignity decades later. the Balkan war, which led to the disappearance of thousands of people. The survivors and those who remain base their hopes on the excavations and the scientific work.
” Hurry up. Many people in the Balkans still miss their loved ones. I really wanted to make this movie for people to start talking about this and maybe have a conversation with their families and ask their dads if they know if there’s still somewhere people could be because It is very difficult to find these victims now.
There are still 11,000 people missing in the Balkan region. One way to find them more quickly is to ask the perpetrators and/or witnesses to speak. “They don’t need to go to the police. They can do this anonymously. And, they might end up with some peace for themselves, but also for anyone looking for their missing.
He adds: “We did not raise the issue of guilt. We didn’t mention any crime scene. We didn’t talk about the authors because we wanted to avoid that topic. If you point the finger at them and say, “You’re the culprit,” they’ll shut up immediately because they don’t want to be the culprit all the time.
With the title of the photo, Baumgartner hopes to show that the bones are not simply linked to something “bad or horrible”. “We wanted a title that shows that even these bones have a certain beauty and can be linked to a certain hope, and not just something bad.”
Baumgartner, who accompanied Ramiz Nukić, one of the film’s protagonists, on an hour-long walk through the forest in search of human remains, admits to having a hard time with nature being “accomplicated in oblivion”. and reconciling its beauty and grandeur with the terrible secrets he hides: “Many people haven’t been there for years because there are still landmines there. And, there is so much beauty there but, on the other hand, there is so much pain in these woods, in these forests and these rivers where people have disappeared. In all sorts of places, and mostly covered by nature. Imagine if you wanted to make someone disappear, and even if someone walked up to you and said, ‘Hey! I saw something there 20 years ago, it’s almost impossible to find the right place because the nature is constantly changing.
Anthropology, archeology and forensic medicine take on a whole new dimension with this film, particularly in connection with the ICMP (International Commission on Disappeared Persons), “They are young – between 35 and 45 years old. Mostly women. What’s interesting is that these people read the bones – Was it a child? Was it an adult? Was it someone who had already been injured? They sometimes work with these great little fragments and it’s like a huge puzzle, and they try to piece it together to finally find an identity. Forensic archaeologists are those who are in charge of mass graves. They know how to bury people. Forensic anthropologists are the ones who read the bones. They have to use the DNA lab to clarify who the victim was, then they compare the reference blood samples with those of those who remained alive.
Baumgartner says he learned about the consequences of war for younger generations. “Because of this alone, people from the Balkans are less likely to find a job. It is difficult for them if they want to travel. They struggle with all the post-war things their family has been through; it is such a big burden for many people.
The issue of societal culpability in times of war is something Baumgartner would like to address in a future project.
Baumgartner is the producer of the film, the postproduction of which is supported by various Swiss foundations.