Sanela Prašović - Gadžo

Sanela Prasovic Gadzo was born on December 23, 1970 in Sarajevo. She graduated with a degree in journalism and communications, a master's degree in public relations and is now finishing her PhD studies in communication sciences.

She started her journalistic career in 1991 at TVSA. During the war in BiH, she worked as a war reporter at TVBIH. For years, she was a correspondent from the Tribunal for the Prosecution of War Crimes in The Hague, and reported on the war in Kosovo in 1999.Awarded several times for her work as a journalist and author in the country and abroad; in 1999, She was named the best TV journalist in BiH, and in 2015, She was named the best journalist in all categories in BiH. Her documentary film "Banjalučka nepravda" (Banja Luka injustice) also won an award in 2004. She produced and directed over 30 documentary films.

Throughout journalistic career, She worked as an editor, reporter, war correspondent, and author/director of documentary films. She is the author and producer of the documentary films Šaćirbey, Return to Hope, Carla, Strength is in Truth and Justice, All Yugoslav Misunderstandings, etc.

She worked at TVBIH and FTV. She managed the TIM System Production Company and created and produced documentaries, TV series and numerous media campaigns.

She was guest lecturer in journalism, media and public relations snd scenario.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
The documentary SONJA carries the message that although the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was horrible, and although the film's main character Haris Hastor endured captivity in a camp, maltreatment, and torture, he never stopped believing in life, never lost hope. Even after escaping from the camp, Haris did not fill his life with hatred towards those who imprisoned and tortured him. He devoted his life to new values and belief in a better future. From that painful period in the war-torn 1992, he emerged and created a normal life for himself and his family. This is a strong message that we should never stop believing, hoping, and encouraging ourselves to step out, to try to make a change.


What are your ambitions with your project?
My latest documentary film SONJA is currently on its festival journey, and I am infinitely happy that this story has been recognized by colleagues at home and abroad, and thus awards are coming in. The documentary film SONJA was declared the winner in the documentary film category of the Future of Film Awards film festival in North Macedonia in June 2023. In July 2023, it also received two awards in Rome, Italy. It was declared the winner - the best documentary film, and I was chosen/awarded as the best director of the festival. This is the 8 & HalFilm Awards film festival.

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The documentary film SONJA is currently included in the official selections of exceptional and important film festivals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as abroad. Yesterday I received news that it is in the official selection of the JAGRAN FILM FESTIVAL in India. Then it was also selected by the Frida Film Festival in France, then the Balkan Panorama Film Festival in Izmir, Turkey, and a festival in Budapest, etc.

I am happy that exceptional and renowned professionals from the world of film have recognized the powerful message carried by my film SONJA.

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Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
The most difficult part was filming the action scenes in which I wanted to convey the emotions experienced by inmate Haris Hastor. The filming was extremely complex, and a special challenge was the engagement of Haris' son for the action scenes. Imagine a situation in which the son does not know that his father was a prisoner of war and a concentration camp, that he went through suffering, torture and mistreatment. And it was only after the last scene was shot that I told him that he played a father, his own father, in the film.

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For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
To all groups. It is important for the young to understand the perniciousness and tragedy of war, and for the elderly to never forget how much pain every war brings.

Why should distributors buy your film?
I think that the film SONJA is important for the distributors because it brings a true, clearly arranged story that awakens the deepest emotions in the viewers. Although the film is about wartime events, it conveys a message of hope and belief in a better future.

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How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?

The documentary SONJA strongly conveys that hate is not answered with hate, but with the belief that there is a way out. That's a powerful lesson. As a director, I tried to convey exactly that message.

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
My entry into the world of film happened spontaneously in the 90s when I was engaged on the national broadcaster to make a series of documentary films. Compared to the pace of work in television journalism, working on documentaries brought immense satisfaction as I had the time to slowly develop the script and directorial explication.
Entering the world of documentary film was love at first sight for me. And that love has continued with the same intensity for over 30 years.

Who is your role model?
My role models are Stanley Kubrick and of course the Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić.

Which movies are your favorites? Why?
“Quo Vadis Aida” because it talks about the genocide in Srebrenica with an exceptional directorial setting of the story. Although the film talks about the brutal killing of over 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica during the war in 1995, it does not show killing, torture, or rape in a single frame. I believe that it is a film that every person should see.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
I found the inspiration for my documentary Sonja in the search for the truth. I believe that it is important to tell true and important stories through the form of film that give us hope back in life. The moment when prisoner and prisoner of war Haris Hastor decides to escape from the camp of Serbian forces is the most important moment in his life. He is only 21 years old at the time, he is young, deeply traumatized, but he says to himself "I will try to run". He is hungry, exhausted, but he runs, runs. While he is running away, he is afraid that he will be killed by Serbian soldiers, but he does not look back, he does not look back. He is running for his life.

Which topics interest you the most?
Somehow it happened that I was always looking for justice and truth in my films. It is very important to me to tell stories that show that we should never give up on our goals, on our dreams, on the belief that our hopes are not in vain.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
I am a person who firmly believes that there must be justice somewhere along our life's path, and I fight for that justice and truth. Throughout my journalistic career, I worked as an editor, reporter, war correspondent, and author/director of documentary films. For my work, I have been awarded multiple times; in 1999, I was named the best TV journalist in BiH, and in 2015, I was named the best journalist in all categories in BiH.

My documentary film "Banjalučka nepravda" (Banja Luka injustice) also won an award in 2004. I have produced and directed over 30 documentary films.

In addition to my love and dedication to film, I am also devoted to academic work, which also makes me happy as I believe it is important to pass on knowledge to young people.

What do you consider most important about filming?
The most important thing is to filming a story in which we sincerely and devotedly believe!

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
I made the film Sonja by combining documentary and feature film techniques. I think that within the framework of documentary films, it is extremely important to emphasize some spoken words, described events, with acted scenes.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I genuinely believe that cinema can bring about changes in society, and I did just that in 2017. That year, I filmed a documentary titled "Power Lies in Truth and Justice," which spoke about corruption in government, favoring investors, and illegal actions by officials.As the author and director of the film, I was exposed to terrible pressures and threats, but I did not give up. The film attracted a lot of attention in Bosnia and Herzegovina after it aired, and the illegal procedures were immediately stopped. This is the power of what we can do through making films.

What can disappoint you in a movie?
It can disappoint me the most if I see that the story has flaws, that it is unconvincing, that it is superficial, that after watching the film I feel empty without any emotions.

Who supports you in your film career?
The most important thing is the support of the family, because we draw peace and creative energy from the family. I have that support. From a professional point of view, I have always had the support of relevant institutions, from the Public Radio-Television System to the Cinematography Foundation, which supported the film SONJA.

What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)
The most memorable reaction to the film SONJA came from my seventeen-year-old daughter Hana. At that age, the mobile phone is in your hands non-stop, notifications arrive every second, you have no patience. But, when she sat down to watch this documentary, after the third minute of the film, Hana turned off her mobile phone and left it on the table and dived into the story with complete dedication. She was lost in that film until the last second, and in the last scene when the prisoner of war and camp inmate Haris Hastor returns to the camp after 30 years, my daughter cried so hard. Then she said the sentence: Mom, I can't believe that this happened in Sarajevo, that Haris survived this and today he is a completely normal person and lives completely without hatred, without frustration. When the child experiences it like that, then I was able to convey the story in the correct way. Many colleagues reacted similarly, some also cried and all the reactions were truly fantastic.

Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
Yes, I am. I was supposed to be at many film festivals. However, the Sarajevo Film Festival has a special place in my heart. You simply have to experience it, and that's why I invite you to come to Sarajevo and feel the beauty of the Sarajevo Film Festival.

What are your future plans in filmmaking carriere?
My documentary SONJA is now on its festival journey. At the same time, I am working on the filming of a new documentary-feature film about the life of Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holocaust. Through the life story of a woman who survived the Holocaust, Erna Caveson Debevec, the film shows how truly incredible life is sometimes. I am truly in love with this story and the first chapter has already fallen.