The Eastern Perception of Homosexuality in ‘’Go West’’

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ENG 370b Balkan Cinema
Final Project Research Paper
The Eastern perception of homosexuality in ‘’Go West’’ “In Bosnia, when you buy land and start to dig the foundation for a house, you can never be sure you won’t find a mass grave; there’s been so much bloodshed,” said Ahmed Imamovic when asked about his latest film ‘’Belvedere’’, the Bosnian nomination for the Oscars of 2012. (Hampton 2011) Although the movie is considered his greatest accomplishment so far by both critics and audience, he first became known to the wide audience with ‘’Go West’’ (2005) – a controversial film, dealing with the ongoing homophobic movements and moods, largely dominating the social scenery in Bosnia. It was part of the official selection of the Montreal Film Festival. The motif of the ‘’different people’’ on the Balkans and their hard time adapting to a life in a rather conservative and war-shaken society made the message known to the international community. ‘’The worst thing in the Balkans is to be homosexual,’’ says Kenan Dizdar, one of the characters in the film ‘’Go West’’. He adds, ‘’They will lower their arms, but carry on hating homosexuals’’. (Angoso, 2006) Masculinity and power it carries as though is seen an underlying symbol of the strength and resistance of nations by a major portion of the Balkan community.

By all means Imamovic’s concern for this topic was logical, as he himself was a witness of the natural consequences of the Bosnian War of 1992-95. Raising awareness of the issues of homophobia, transphobia and other general problem of discrimination became a huge factor in overcoming them and coming to peace with different layers of society. A survey conducted by the Danish Institute for Human Rights comes to show alarming facts about the locals’ views: ‘’Issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity are regarded as a private matter, and a representative survey from 2005 shows that 82% of the population have negative opinions about homosexual persons; 77% believe that accepting homosexuality in society would be detrimental for Bosnia and Herzegovina; 71% believe that they would feel very uncomfortable in the company of a homosexual person.’’ (The Danish Institute of Human Rights, 2010)

Despite being independent, the report presents alarming data that might seem unrealistic when given a first glance. They have however been confirmed by numerous cases of homophobic acts throughout the past two decades. Especially after the violent attacks against the participants in the festival for homosexuals in Sarajevo of 2008, European society has been increasingly involved in improving the tolerance level of the region: ‘’It seems as if many Bosnians this very day consider homosexuality as a disease. It also includes members of different political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina.’’ (Council of Europe, 2009)

Indeed, the perception of homosexuality as a disease is portrayed explicitly in Imamovic’s ‘’Go West’’, where the two main protagonists Milan and Kenan have to hide their ‘’abnormal’’ relationship by pretending that Kenan is actually a woman. The very beginning of the movie almost seems like a documentary – Kenan on the wide screen, making a confession about his life and struggles as a homosexual in Eastern Europe and how he managed to escape the fate of many others –death or complete expulsion from society. The plot is not outlined by exceptional and intricate turns and twists; it is rather a play on stereotypes, dictating the social order of post-war Bosnia. The country is still trying to make its way to the large and tolerant European family. Yet again, the path is not clear, the war is somewhere in the background, and seems incomprehensible and distant to the main character’s story. Kenan and Milan see the war as a transition to a normal life, a catharsis, after which they could finally show their true identities and love one another as they have always dreamed - without having to hide. The travelogue...
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