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Kiss the Future 2023 Movie Review
The ongoing war in Ukraine adds a timely resonance to Nenad Cicin-Sain’s documentary about the underground art and music movement that arose in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Not that it needed to, as Kiss the Future would have had the same power at any time in a world perpetually marked by armed conflict. Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival, this moving and thought-provoking film also packs a commercial hook in the form of the band U2, which features prominently in the proceedings via archival footage and contemporary interviews with members of Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton .
Based on the 2004 memoir Fools Rush In by Bill S. Carter, who also wrote the screenplay and provides frequent on-screen commentary, the film revolves around the nearly four-year siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serbs. As a result, its inhabitants were essentially trapped, including many young people trying to reassert their independent spirit despite the dangers involved.
“The public literally risked their lives to attend the shows”, recalls one of the many musicians who gave concerts in the clandestine clubs and discos that arose during the conflict. “It’s been real therapy for us,” says another. We hear the story of a drummer whose hand was blown off in an explosion on his way to a concert, and we see a photo of him happily playing with his stick attached to his arm. Many of the musicians cite The Clash as a touchstone and inspiration for the politically and socially conscious music they set out to create.
At the time, Carter was a young writer and photographer still grieving over the recent death of his girlfriend. He traveled to Sarajevo and got involved with Sarajevo TV, intending to soon get an interview with one of his musical heroes, Bono, who was very worried about what was happening there. He eventually landed an on-camera interview, conducted during one of the band’s European shows, during which he tried to get Bono to play in Sarajevo.
We watch a few minutes of excerpts from the interview, the most precious moment of which comes when Bono literally cringes when Carter tells him that the young people there love not only rock and roll but disco as well.
The society-minded musician tried to get his bandmates to agree to play there, but they were understandably reluctant. “Uh, isn’t there a war there?” The Edge remembers asking. Instead, they organized live video tie-ins with Sarajevo TV during their successful Zoo TV tour, which featured giant video screens. The documentary includes footage from many of those shows where Bono spoke directly with Carter and various guests in front of thousands of spectators.
“We gave them a big dose of gritty reality in the middle of our show,” notes The Edge.Unfortunately, the encounters weren’t always particularly enlightening, as several of Carter’s guests took the opportunity to send personal messages to their wives and girlfriends. “It started to feel a little like reality television, using people’s pain and anguish as entertainment,” says Bono, who eventually left the studio.
However, the band remained intensely involved in the cause, composing the classic song “Miss Sarajevo” with Brian Eno which was inspired by a Sarajevo guerrilla beauty pageant whose contestants displayed a large banner reading “Don ‘t Let Them Kill Us”. When the siege was finally lifted following the Dayton Peace Accords, the band made plans to perform in the bombed-out city.
The footage from the following concert in 1997, performed in front of some 45,000 fans, is the highlight of the documentary. Bono’s nerves were at such a high point that his voice trailed off, but the audience happily took over with exuberant singing. “The war ended the moment Bono took the stage,” recalled an audience member. It was the largest gathering in the city since the war began and we see many spectators overwhelmed with emotion as they watch the filming of the show which took place more than 25 years ago.
The film’s final moments present a montage of recent scenes of war, riots, and authoritarian governments around the world. It provides a grim reminder that a story like this is likely to repeat itself again and again.