University of Westminster graduate Matteo Di Giovanni teamed up with Roberto Tenace to create the Bosnian Project, a series of pieces about Bosnian identity using various media. One of these is a documentary, The Past is a Foreign Language, exploring the use of language – variously called Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian – in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The result is an exploration of identity in one of the most divided countries in Europe.

THE PAST IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE from roberto tenace on Vimeo.

“After a long period of research and several trips to the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular, we (my colleague photographer Matteo Di Giovanni and myself) felt the need to start a project about the composite nature of this country and its people. To us, it was important to explore the many characters of a country that underwent major changes. Furthermore, it was especially important to grasp the nature of these changes that continue across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We asked ourselves what does being Bosnian mean? Is there a shared identity; a Bosnian identity? So we travelled across the country in search of particular stories that – in our view – tell something meaningful about the historical, religious and social paths Bosnian people are presently following. The images focus both on the people and their respective contexts. Through personal stories and ‘solid’ landscapes, the frames recount different facets of today’s Bosnia.

The documentary explores the current linguistic situation in Bosnia, where words have become borders, while short video landscapes allow a viewer enter the mood of the country, the same mood we experienced. Our collaborative work converged in a cross-media project, since we thought it to be the best way to tell such a complex story.”

Roberto Tenace

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