French auteur Jean-Luc Godard needs no introduction. Starting from the pioneering experiments of the French New Wave in the 1960s, Godard has maintained the momentum of his filmmaking investigations with later works like Goodbye to Language and The Image Book. His works have inspired generations of artists who have fallen in love with his revolutionary approach to the art of cinema.
For this week’s highlighted short film, we have chosen Godard’s 1993 short documentary Je vous salue, Sarajevo. Only two minutes long, it is an incendiary meditation on the brutality of the Bosnian War and the Srebrenica massacre. Through powerful images and devastating commentary, Godard forces the audience to confront humanity’s capacity for inflicting tragedy on the marginalised and the helpless.
Above all else, Je vous salue, Sarajevo is an essay that creates an interesting juxtaposition between silent images of violence and a boisterous commentary on contemporary society. While Godard claimed that he wasn’t familiar with Juan Goytisolo’s work, his Cahier de Sarajevo influenced the short film in many ways and carried a similar momentum as was evident in the film’s cinematic force.
As the narrator of the film, Godard embarks on a remarkable lament: “In a sense, fear is the daughter of God, redeemed on Good Friday. She is not beautiful, mocked, cursed or disowned by all. But don’t be mistaken, she watches over all mortal agony, she intercedes for mankind; for there is a rule and an exception. Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. Everybody speaks the rule; cigarette, computer, t-shirt, television, tourism, war.
He adds, “Nobody speaks the exception. It isn’t spoken, it is written; Flaubert, Dostoyevsky. It is composed; Gershwin, Mozart. It is painted; Cézanne, Vermeer. It is filmed; Antonioni, Vigo. Or it is lived, then it is the art of living; Srebrenica, Mostar, Sarajevo. The rule is to want the death of the exception. So the rule for cultural Europe is to organise the death of the art of living, which still flourishes. When it’s time to close the book, I have no regrets. I’ve seen so many people live so badly, and so many die so well.”
Watch Godard’s famous short documentary on the Bosnian war, below.