17th April 2018
In 1994 Sarajevo was a city under siege. Amongst the madness, two United Nations personnel persuade a global rock star, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, to come and play a gig to the population.
Bruce Dickinson, Alen Ajanovic, Esad Bratovic
Scream For Me Sarajevo isn’t your typical music documentary. It doesn’t chart the rise of a superstar or narrate us through a troubled album recording. It is a harrowing reminder of a war largely unknown to anyone born in the last 20 years, the unbreakable spirit of the innocent civilians who got caught up in the devastation – and the power of music to bring together people in a time when the worst of humanity is on display.
Scream For Me Sarajevo tells the unbelievable true story of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson’s trip to the Bosnian capital in 1994 during the deadly siege of the city to perform with his band.
While Dickinson does get interviewed, it’s the accounts from the metal fans who lived through the atrocities that make the film as impactful as it is. Their confusion and initial fear as to what was going on are clear and the film wisely stays away from delving too deeply into the reasons why the war happened in the first place. Instead, the stories come from then-teenage or early 20s rockers who were forced into basements to practice their instruments with no electricity as well as the military personnel who made the concert possible.
In one of the many eye-opening anecdotes, one of the survivors recalls when he realised the fighting wasn’t going to end anytime soon and the people of Sarajevo adapted their way of life and began to act every day like it was their last. Astonishingly, a number of them claim it was the ‘best time of their lives’ because they lived without fear.
It’s interesting to hear from the band members too, all of which seem extremely humbled by their experiences in Sarajevo. Bassist Chris Dale continually gets emotional when talking about what he saw there and how the generosity of those who had nothing to give yet tried to hand him beers was something he’d never forget. Their new-found humility appears genuine too and it’s strange to see these larger-than-life rock stars on the verge of tears when we’re so used to them being the tough guys on stage.
The outlandishly ludicrous tale of a rock band travelling hundreds of miles for one gig right on the frontlines of a deadly battle seems like it’s been ripped straight from the fictional world of Spinal Tap and in a way I wish that was the case. But the stark reality is this really happened and the history of heavy metal could have easily been altered if everything didn’t go according to plan. But the real story here is how the Sarajevan’s never gave up hope when all seemed to be lost. As much of a household name Bruce Dickinson is to fans of the genre, it didn’t matter to them who it was, just that there was a semblance of normality for a few hours for people who were living through barbaric times.
It’s a little jarring at times as the footage of shells hitting buildings and death on the streets is accompanied by cuts from Dickinson’s back catalog which occasionally gives the impression of it being a preachy music video, but director Tarik Hodzic has the best of intentions in his work.
Scream For Me Sarajevo is a testament to the strength and defiance of humanity in the face of war. Not only is it an absolute must watch for Iron Maiden and heavy metal fans, but for anyone that may have lost their own faith in the human race. The images of battle are hard to stomach, but the extraordinary courage of those caught up in the violence to risk their lives for music is truly inspirational.
Inspirational anecdotes from those who were caught up in the atrocities
Utterly absorbing story
The bittersweet reunions 21 years later will leave tears in your eyes
Some of the music cut to images of burning buildings and death in the streets is jarring