A time of change and growth has fallen on Bosnia and Herzegovina. After war ravished industries and divided neighbours along ethnic and religious lines, the area is now experiencing a revival. Focusing on increasing its economy, the region has committed itself to finding new revenue through the tourism industry. A task that, as Igor Drljaca explores in his documentary The Stone Speakers, has its own set of challenges as various philosophies about both the past and the path foward clash.
The ideological divide is especially evident in the four specific tourist locals that Drljaca’s camera captures. There is the statue of the Virgin Mary which has become a key stop for Christian worshippers; the pyramids who are believed to have spiritual healing powers; the artistic renaissance of Višegrad; and the city of Tulza which has become a tourist hub thanks to its salt lakes.
Taking an observational approach, Drljaca merely presents each place without offering his own commentary. He allows experts and locals to appear onscreen and share their views on everything from how the region has been shaped over the years by religion, war, politics and capitalism. Drljaca ensures that the film ultimately leaves it up to the viewer to come up with their own thoughts on the information being presented. He achieves this by highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of each tourist locale.
In soaking up both the beauty and the deeply rooted pain within Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Stone Speakers presents a meditative look at a society still trying to reconcile with the lingering impact of war. This is why even the most well-intentioned of tourist destinations are laced with revisionist history and, in some cases, have become tools for political and religious gains.
The Stone Speakers is as much a cautionary tale as it is an exploration of identity and growth. It is a reminder that society cannot fully move forward without understanding the steps of the past.