On the first day of BH Film Programme, audience will have an opportunity to see French-Belgian-Bosnian co-production HEROES DON’T DIE (LES HÉROS NE MEURENT JAMAIS) directed by Aude Léa Rapin, that premiered at Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week this year. 

HEROES DON’T DIE is one more film that talks about death in vicinity of Srebrenica, to be more precise in Bratunac, but this time, the story is a bit different from what we expect. Following the trail of mysterious criminal Zoran, whose reincarnation Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) is supposed to be, a little film crew arrives in the place “where everybody is searching for ghosts.” When they arrive to Bratunac, all they have is a name, date of death, which corresponds to Joachim’s date of birth (21stAugust 1983), and a few details that came to Joachim in his dreams. Slightly absurd story slowly untangles as we find out real reasons behind Alice’s (Adèle Haenel) decision to gather the crew and go on the road trip (in spite of her scepticism) to the place she thought she left forever.

In her debut, Rapin doesn’t only manage to avoid clichés, that we are more than used to from the foreigners coming to shoot in our country, in a very interesting way, but she also bases part of the humour in the film on frivolity and prejudice of her characters: Alice, who was shooting a documentary there years ago, doesn’t know that Zoran is one of the most common names in the area and pretentious Joachim doesn’t feel like talking in English just because there are some people around who should be able to understand him. 

Team of four people who are shooting this meta-film is completed with sound recordist Virginie (Antonia Buresi), who provides distance from the two main characters obsessed by themselves and creates comic effect, and cameraman Paul, a man with whom everybody speaks, but whom we never see. Director’s decision to treat DOP Paul Guilhaume as one of the characters, provides Rapin with the opportunity to pull spectators into the story as active participants. From time to time, outer gaze seems dominant as camera floats freely from character to character seemingly for no reason at all while they stand confused by situation they found themselves in. The camera seems to ask the same question audience might ask in the real life: who these foreigners are and what is the next thing they are going to misunderstand?

To make a potential confusion even bigger, alleged criminal the crew is looking for (for whom we never find out what he actually did) has nothing to do with the war that made Bratunac notorious. Zoran died almost 10 years before. What might turn out to be one more obstacle in understanding the film for uninformed spectator who is only trying to connect the place to a few tragic information (s)he has about it, relieves the local audience of additional pressure and provides them with an opportunity to recall the life that existed there before. 

HEROES DON’T DIE talks about death in surprisingly refreshing way connecting French, relaxed view on life with cruel reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But, the most important thing might be the fact that it offers a new story to the audience, something they can recall when they find themselves in need of comfort, because as Hajra (Hasija Borić), who lost her whole family in the war says to her French guests at one point: “It’s good to tell stories to yourself.”


Director: Aude Léa Rapin

Screenplay: Aude Léa Rapin, Jonathan Couzinié 

DOP: Paul Guilhaume

Editor: Juliette Alexandre. 

Cast: Adèle Haenel, Jonathan Couzinié, Antonia Buresi, Hasija Borić, Vesna Stilinović

Production: Les Films du Worso in coproduction with SCCA/pro.ba, Radar Films, Scope Pictures

Sales: Le Pacte