The House Fata Didn't Build

2012, Society  -  47 min Leave a Comment
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Al Jazeera Correspondent host Sami Zeidan travels to the Bosnian Village of Konjevic Polje in a quest to interview Fata Orlovic and Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda, opposing figureheads in a fight over a precariously placed church. And while the story of a woman coming home to find an unexpected house of worship on her front yard may at first sound absurdist and comedic, the reality of the situation is anything but.

The film gives viewers a brief history lesson on the Bosnian War, focusing on the 1995 massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males in a sweep of ethnic cleansing unseen since World War II. Refugees that had fled to Srebrenica under the promise of protection by the United Nations were instead slaughtered by Serbs, leaving thousands of children orphaned and women widowed.

Fata Orlovic, a tenacious and spirited senior citizen, is one such surviving widow. When Fata finally returned home to Konjevic Polje in 2000 she not only found her home had been ransacked, but a Serbian Orthodox church had been erected on her property where her garden used to be. Considering it both a territorial symbol for the Serbs and a cruel reminder of the violence against her loved ones, Fata instigated a heated legal battle to have the building removed from her land.

In interviews with her friends and family we learn that she faced physical abuse and intimidation from local police and religious leaders for over a decade. While a local lawyer aided Fata at no cost and ultimately struck a deal to have the church moved to an adjacent plot of land, complications regarding ownership of that land continued to delay any progress in moving the church from Fata's property.

In an effort to allow the Serbian Orthodox Church fair representation, Zeidan meets with Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda, the man with the power to demolish or move the church. Asking why the church cannot simply be moved to another plot of land more immediately, Kacavenda is equally defensive and dismissive, promptly ending the interview when he decides he does not care for Zeidan's line of questioning.

Although conversations with younger generations indicate racial tensions have greatly eased in the years since the Bosnian War, The House Fata Didn't Build serves as a stark reminder that the fallout from war is far-reaching and, for some, seemingly everlasting.