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Warriors (1999)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Warriors (1999)
BBC Films/Deep Indigo for BBC1, tx. 20 & 21/11/1999
2 x 90 min, colour
DirectorPeter Kosminsky
ProducerNigel Stafford-Clark
Written byLeigh Jackson
CinematographyRichard Greatrex
EditorChris Ridsdale
MusicDebbie Wiseman

Cast: Matthew MacFadyen (Pte Alan James); Darren Morfitt (Pte Peter Skeet); Cal Macaninch (Sgt Andre Sochanik); Ioan Gruffudd (Lt John Feeley); Joe Renton (Cpl Gary Sprague); Steve Chaplin (Pte Tommo Redmond); Damian Lewis (Lt Neil Loughrey); Jodhi May (Emma); Sheyla Shehovich (Minka); Jasmina Sijercic (Aida); Branka Katic (Almira Zec)

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British soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 1992 discover a bloody and chaotic civil war whose most grotesque excesses they are powerless to prevent.

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Acclaimed drama documentary Warriors depicts British soldiers' experiences as peacekeepers for the United Nations Protection Force during the Bosnian War (1992-95), the psychological impact of the atrocities they witness but are not allowed to stop, and their struggle to readjust to civilian life. Although the characters are fictitious and Bosnian scenes were filmed in the Czech Republic, the production team thoroughly researched real events such as 1993's Ahmići massacre through interviews, documents, archive footage and a visit to Bosnia by director Peter Kosminsky and writer Leigh Jackson.

As in Kosminsky's earlier First Tuesday (ITV, 1983-93) documentaries, there is a strong concern for soldiers within problematic political situations. We empathise with the soldiers, because Jackson establishes their home lives before they reach Bosnia, and Kosminsky follows them into events as part of his urgent visual style. Early scenes demarcate regional and class backgrounds - Private James's uninhibited Liverpool social life contrasts with the world of Lieutenant Loughrey - but also foreshadow later events: here, James can intervene to protect Private Skeet, and his gaze into barbecue embers finds a grisly echo in a burnt-out Muslim house in Bosnia. Warriors connects distant atrocities with domestic life: the burned bodies are those of a family who had welcomed them into their home.

The UN mandate stresses non-intervention, reinforced by an often-unwelcome UN representative. Initially stressing emotional neutrality, Lieutenant Feeley seems to have a surname as ironic as the 'Warrior' name of the peacekeepers' vehicles. However, he is among the soldiers whose neutrality is tested by relationships, grief and provocation, such as a Serb's racial taunting of a soldier whose Polish origins we discover later. After climbing over corpses to identify a survivor - replicating a horrifying real event - James tries to bypass the soldiers' rules of engagement by obscenely goading a Serb into violence he can respond to. As soldiers return to civilian life, gardens and supermarkets are backdrops for displays of trauma, in Warriors' final combination of war and domesticity.

Kosminsky was among the guests on 'The Evils of War' (BBC, tx. 21/11/1999), a Heart of the Matter edition discussing issues raised by Warriors, and eleven years after his first visit he returned to Ahmići for The South Bank Show (ITV, tx. 24/5/2009). There he met local residents, including the son of the family whose massacre Warriors depicted, and entered the house which had prompted one of its most chilling scenes.

Dave Rolinson

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Video Clips
1. Non-intervention (3:01)
2. Massacre (4:17)
3. Searching the truck (3:48)
4. Readjusting (2:21)
Kosminsky, Peter (1956-)