Milosevic On Trial

Michael Christoffersen

2x60 min and 70 min

Well before Milosevic’s trial actually started, Team Productions had approached the UN International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague to ask for permission to film, but the Tribunal declined. The tribunal had received numerous applications from other filmmakers and the only way into the well-protected UN system was persistent lobbying.

Mette Heide (producer): “Milosevic’s trial is a major chapter in history and naturally we wanted to document it. In 2001 we contacted the tribunal again and wrote that we were interested in making a classic documentary about the trial for as many years as it would last. They said no, but we nurtured our contacts with Christian Chartier who was in charge of press relations for the Tribunal.

The prosecutors were not at all interested in collaborating so things didn’t look good, but we kept coming back. Quite early in the project we found out that it might be a good idea to build a historical archive based on the material we would shoot, and when we presented that idea to the tribunal it sparked some interest. The fact that our director, Michael Christoffersen, had made Genocide: The Judgment in 1999, a documentary about the UN Trial in Rwanda, also helped to open doors.”

Mette Hoffmann Meyer-of TV2 Denmark at the time-and Nick Fraser, from BBC, backed the project early on, and eleven other broadcasters got on board when Heide and Christoffersen pitched the project at an EBU pitching session in Amsterdam.

Mette Heide: “At the pitching we kind of indicated that we had the necessary permission to shoot even though we didn’t have a contract yet, and then a crowd of hands from broadcasters interested in participating in the project went up.”

That kind of support made things a lot easier, and when the production company contacted the Tribunal again, they were much more positive, especially knowing that the estimated number of television viewers would be several million.

The filmmakers contacted the various people involved in the trial: the prosecutors, Milosevic’s defence team, and the two counsellors or ‘amicus curiae’ (Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins) who had been appointed by the court to support Milosevic who insisted on defending himself.

Mette Heide

Mette Heide: “The counsellors agreed to be in the film maybe because they aren’t part of the UN system and therefore have a more relaxed relationship to the media, and to have them as characters got things moving. Also the Head of the Tribunal liked the project a lot and lobbied for us, which meant that just after the trial had started we could sign a contract that gave us full editorial freedom but required us to keep the tapes until the case was over.

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