Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘The Silence of Reason’

Posted in Hot Docs 2024 by - May 03, 2024
Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘The Silence of Reason’

As a middle millennial, I only remember the tail end of the Yugoslavian Wars, the air strikes. Living in an anti-American household, America was bad, Yugoslavia was good, but even my father saw nuance. It was the first time I heard the term ethnic cleansing, the thing Milosevic inflicted upon the Bosnians – Srebrenica is a town name that brought chills to those who bothered to know. What I and presumably many people didn’t know about was the mass rapes of Bosnian girls and women. So this documentary tries to shed light on what happened to them in Foca, Bosnia in the 1990s.

It does it in its own unique way, by showing abandoned office and town roads, and it uses eerie sound design to remind us of the haunting events occurring within those spaces. And much of the time, the documentary adds intertitles of witness statements.Kumjana Novakova’s documentary The Silence of Reason identifies these witnesses by their numbers – for example, Witness 87. Witness 87 tells a harrowing story of Montenegrins selling her and another girl, some of the details hazier than others. After the exchange, the Montenegrins were presumably raping them but let them have jobs where they can earn tip money.

The tip money was enough for them to buy a ticket out. Novakova juxtaposes this story with a tracking shot showing a camera going through a town road. That juxtaposition in Silence of Reason makes her viewers feel both the exploitative exchange as well as hope for the girls. Sure, that scene itself shows the ambiguous language that Novakova uses throughout her documentary. There’s also a relentlessness within the documentary that may make some viewers check out regardless of its subject. Yet I also respect the methods she uses here that makes for someone else’s 4 or 5 star film.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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