Prize Winner: Jasmila Zbanic 

Jasmila Zbanic was born in Sarajevo in 1974, and trained at the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo. In 1995 she went to the United States to work as a puppeteer at the Bread and Puppet Theater. On returning to Sarajevo in 1997, she set up a film production company. 

Jasmila Zbanic demonstrates by her example that artistic interventions can be a source of crucial societal impulses. The examination of the traumas produced by the war in the citizens of Bosnia forms a central part of her work. She calls for the crimes to be scrutinised fearlessly, but also encourages reconciliation and a process of healing. With films such as Esma’s Secret: Grbavica, which won the Golden Bear for best film at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, Jasmila Zbanic has demonstrated that she has her own, distinctive artistic signature. At the same time, she regards her work as a strategy for survival because it gives the silent victims a voice and a new perspective. The director explains that she tries to point to ways of breaking down the lethargy of traumatisation, allowing people to build a life for themselves.

Thanks to her masterful use of the aesthetic techniques of cinematography, the surprising images she finds, and not least through her often quirky sense of humour, she succeeds in defining these reconstructive efforts as a spirited cultural achievement, as a contribution to a mental paradigm shift in a deeply insecure country. In doing so, she also intervenes directly in political events. Her film Esma’s Secret: Grbavica triggered a broad debate about the rights of the Bosnian women who had been raped during the war – as a result of which, these women have now been recognised by the law as civilian war victims, and as such are entitled to a pension.

Jasmila Zbanic pursues her goal of a comprehensive sensitisation for repressed topics with great determination and energy. She is, not least of all, a brilliant networker. From the start, she was interested in giving up the social isolation of the artist and instead using cooperative campaigns to create a climate of fresh beginnings and renewal. The video works, documentaries and theatre productions turned out by Deblokada, an artists’ association she helped to set up, also contribute to this. In awarding her this prize, the KAIROS prize committee would like to give Jasmila Zbanic’s important work a European forum and direct people’s attention towards a region whose conflicts tend to be forgotten in the face of the current debates and crises within Europe.

On 23 February 2014, Jasmila Zbanic is to receive the KAIROS Prize at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. The laudatory speech to the prize-winner will be given by Dieter Kosslick, the director of the Berlin International Film Festival.