A New Perspective

A relationship develops in Sarajevo


It started with one of the first questions we teach students in English classes: “What do you do?”

“I was a cameraman, and my dad is a retired cinematographer,” Rob* responded. Since a camera had recently been donated to the Source, a community center in Sarajevo operated by Alliance global staff, that answer sparked a whirlwind of ideas that would become an event—the Annual Source Film Seminar and Festival—that continues to grow and develop each year.

Last November, 10 high schools participated in our third seminar, “Challenge and Express Yourself 2013,” in which veteran filmmakers teach moviemaking techniques to the students. We actually had to turn six schools down before the deadline, a far cry from the first year, when we were practically begging schools to participate.

Each year the films get better, and more than 200 people attended the festival premiere and other showings of the short films the schools’ teams had made. Through the event, we are able to make new contacts in the community and are thrilled that we have remained connected with some of the students from each year’s seminar.

“Thanks to the film seminar and the Source, we were able to learn more about film, something we [are not taught] in school,” said Almin, one of the producers of this year’s crop of films. “We also got to meet new friends and develop our film projects together. We hope each film will have something special to offer.”

Behind the festival is the story of how doing something they both love has allowed a young man and his father to rebuild a relationship that was deeply broken and gain new respect for one another.

The relationship between Rob and his father, Ed*, had been strained since the death of Rob’s mother when he was 15. It became even more difficult, however, when they returned to Sarajevo in 1999 after living as refugees in Slovenia for nearly eight years. Rob had been smoking pot and using LSD before his mother’s death, but by the time they returned to Sarajevo, he started using heroin. His struggle with addiction continued for nearly a decade, developing a tragic pattern: periods in rehab followed by sobriety and then the fall once more. Finally, in 2009, he awoke in his apartment, unsure of how he got there. Fearing his addiction would lead only to death, Rob agreed to enter a Christian rehab center in a neighboring country.

When Rob returned to Sarajevo a year and a half later, he was a different man. This time, he believed that there was hope for his future, and he understood the importance of being thankful and generous rather than always looking to get. Before he finished rehab, Rob heard about a local group that helped ex-addicts with the process of resocialization. We have a partnership with this organization, which is led by ex-addicts who attend the local Alliance-affiliated church. Rob started attending their weekly meetings and eventually came to the Source.

After we met in English class, Rob began shooting stock footage for us in the summer of 2011, and then in January 2012 we provided training for him in film editing. Since then, he has been a part-time videographer for the Source’s NGO foundation.

In the beginning, I believe that Rob’s work for our foundation was just a job, but over the years I have seen a change in him. He always strived to make his work as good as possible, but now I also see his desire to help us further our work and let as many people as possible know about the center. One student noted Rob’s dedication in fulfilling their wishes in filming and editing—including climbing with the team to the top of a tall building to get the perfect shot. Through his work at the Source, he feels he has a part in bringing something of value to his community.

While we were working on a project for a local church camp, Rob planned to have his dad drive him each week. “My dad likes going with me to shoot,” he told me, “and it will be good for us to spend some time together.”
On one of those travel days, he posted a picture of Ed on Facebook with the caption “Coolest Dad in the World.” I cried when I saw it because for most of his teen and early adult years, Rob believed Ed didn’t love him at all. It was only a few years ago that he realized his father cared deeply for him even after all he had put him through. That moment was probably when they finally began to build a true relationship and even became friends. God allowed our foundation to play at least a small part in that rebuilding by giving them an opportunity to work together on something they love.

In the fall of 2011, we held our first film seminar, with Ed teaching and Rob working with the student teams to film and edit their projects. I am thankful we could give Ed, now retired, the opportunity to share with the next generation of filmmakers the wealth of knowledge he has gained throughout his 40-year career as a cinematographer. His generation produced some of the most respected names in the film industry in the Balkans. “It is a great thing having Ed teach the next generation. It lets them know that something of value can come from this region,” a well-known producer and director told me. “Unfortunately, they believe that only the West can make something good, but we in the Balkans have something to contribute, too.”

In January, Rob led a two-week filming and photography class for some of the students from the film seminar, continuing the work he and Ed started last fall. He learned from his father, and now he continues to teach others. The people in Sarajevo would say fate brought Rob and Ed to our door—but I know that it was God. I see His hand in their lives even though they do not yet call Jesus Lord and Savior.

One day while we were waiting on the students to arrive, Ed sought me out. “My son is not always easy to understand,” he said, “but you seem to have figured him out. Your organization gave him a chance when others wouldn’t have because of his past. Thank you for giving him a chance to regain his self-confidence and dignity. Thank you for giving me a chance to work with him again.”

“It wasn’t me that gave him the second chance, it was God,” I responded. “I was just being obedient to what He told me, but it has been a joy to see the changes in him.”

With tears in his eyes Ed answered, “I know. It’s what I prayed for such a long time.”

*Names changed

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