London International Monthly Film Festival - London
‘’Seven Thousand Souls’’ is the outstanding and extraordinary documentary by Sanjin Miric. This piece of artistic history is about the story of the lost 7,100 men that never left the Austro-Hungarian training camps, after the Great War. Miric succeeds to deliver an all around great film that combines story telling and education, emotionally drained and with a great message.
Firstly it has a very important premise, this multi awarded documentary was also funded by the Serbian Ministry of Culture which clarifies the historical accuracy of the events. The production design quality excellence is obvious despite the suprisngly low budget of 40,000 EUROS, considering there is a huge plethora of flashbacks, costumes, special vfx and locations.
The directing is energetic, brilliantly holding a great pace throughout the film without overstaying itself. There is no dialogue on the representative historical flashbacks but you can feel the scenes. The beautiful script is accompanied with sweet visuals, well done cinematography and color grading.
There is nothing negative to say about this film, everything is rightly done with only one questionable choice, the final quote by J.F Kennedy that suggests to forgive but never forget. This quote captures the rapid Balkan spirit that is always war hungry yet we would love to see a quote from Serbian or orthodox literature and philosophy.
However, this is secondary as we witness an amazing dramatic war piece.
We cannot wait to see what is next for the director Sanjin Miric.
International Symbolic Art Film Festival, Saint-Petersburg
It is a very uncomfortable subject to speak on. But speaking about it is a necessity,
especially nowadays. World War I aligned with World War II are still very sensitive
topics in all countries-participants. Every family has a story to tell, every family has a great grandfather or great grandmother who sacrificed a lot during these devastating events.
That’s what makes it so personal.
But no matter how hard and how uncomfortable this subject actually is, it’s really important to reanimate those events in our memories every once in a while to make sure those heroes are not forgotten and their noble purposes are captivated with great gratitude.
That is definitely something to thank the Director of this film for.
That being said, let’s try to analyze the movie itself. Being a director in contradiction to being a historian means while telling the same exact story to appeal to the feelings of the watcher besides providing dry information. It’s just more likely to find a response in the hearts of the young generation who is getting less and less connected to those events.
And it seems to be the goal of “Seven thousand souls”.
Narrator puts in the spotlight civil heroes of labor who generally get much less attention than soldiers themselves. All the stories mentioned in the film are very personal, each character has a face, a life, his own heroic path through the war. That raises the level of compassion drastically.
A lot of priceless photographs demonstrated in the film serve the same cause - to raise the compassion, to literally engrave those images in our memories, and some staged scenes to raise that bar even higher.
It ends with the quote by John F. Kennedy: “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names”, I’d say, that sums up the movie perfectly.
We have received the judges’ results for the IndieFEST Film Awards 2020 Humanitarian Awards, and we are excited to inform you that
you have won:
Award of Distinction
Seven Thousand Souls
Your production was hand selected by our judges and staff, from the entire pool of entries to the competition throughout 2020, as a film that represents both the spirit of humanitarianism combined with quality filmmaking craft. IndieFEST receives thousands of submissions each year.
You can be justifiably proud of this honor!
The judges feel strongly that this year’s nominees brought light to many important global topics. In addition to the Grand Prize winner, the judges have included three additional levels of Humanitarian awards so they could honor a broader group of dedicated filmmakers that conveyed so much talent and passion for their subjects.
We honor and thank you for that.
We firmly believe that film can make impactful changes globally and the IndieFEST Humanitarian Awards are designed to give recognition to those illustrious filmmakers whose craft and message enlightens and inspires audiences to make a difference!
We appreciate the extremely important work you are doing to raise awareness and shift global paradigms. We are truly grateful for your talented filmmaking and dedication and we honor YOU, as a filmmaker, for bringing awareness to the critical issues of our time.
Once again, we not only congratulate you, we thank you for your efforts to make a positive difference in our world and we wish you continued success in your career as an award-winning filmmaker.
It is truly our honor to recognize your contribution to the world.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you.
The IndieFEST Film Awards
La Jolla, California
FILM REVIEW by Head Programmer Andrija Jovanovic
TITLE: 7000 Souls
In the review of the film directed by Sanjin Miric, we take into account its two main aspects: the
subject of the film and its form.
"7000 Souls" is a work dealing with historical theme related to the Great War, but unlike most documentaries of the genre that pay attention to military and political history, crucial battles and political intrigues, the work of director Miric has as its subject an ordinary man, caught in the terrible whirlwind of war, who is often ignored and pushed aside, in favor of "great" events and prominent figures. In fact, this man is a true portrait of the world at a given moment, a world destroyed and teared apart by destruction, a world which has turned against itself, in which human qualities are pushed to the extreme like heartless atrocities on the one hand and true benevolence and self-sacrifice on the other.
The war that came to Serbia in 1914 is mostly interpreted through the prism of initial military successes against a far superior enemy, followed by the suffering of the army and the military and state leadership during the withdrawal through Albania, recovery in Greece and breakthrough back to the homeland. History has long (intentionally or accidentally) neglected an entire stage of an occupied country, whose army withdrew and was forced to leave it at the mercy of the enemy. There is also little evidence of the fate of many civilians and soldiers captured and missing during all four years of World War I. "7000 souls" is therefore an important testimony, having as its theme the forgotten story of these often nameless victims, whose fate remained unknown to their descendants and who were in fact the soul of the country plunged into the chaos of bloodshed. Taking as its theme the fate of prisoners of war, both military and civilian, deported and placed in the Jindřichovice and Broumov camps in the Czech Republic, the author draws attention to these suffering commoners, whose fate reflects the image of the epoch, state of mind, similarities and differences between societies and people. By researching this story at the source, the director manages to revive forgotten destinies first hand and documents them by creating invaluable material for future generations. In addition to the recorded historical data, he draws the material for his film from the personal stories of the descendants, both those whose ancestors went through the hardships of captivity, and those whose ancestors witnessed this suffering, developed ties and friendships with prisoners that continued long after the madness of war has ended. This is another proof that people are the ones who make the world, not the politics and games of powers, and that when all the storms subside, it is always people who remain after them, anonymous, dedicated to their simple lives and loved ones. All these people are recorded in extraordinary and shocking photographs that the director found and weaved into his story, images that cannot be found in
textbooks and history books, and are invaluable treasures with portraits of men and women, fellow prisoners who shared life in the camp, their moments of rest, hard work, difficult conditions in which they had to survive, while their faces are carved with emotions that do not leave the viewer indifferent. All this, along with statistics, reports, anecdotes and individual cases, forms a rich tapestry that revives the story of captured Serbs who never returned to their homeland, but were buried together in the second largest Serbian mass grave in the world.
When it comes to the form of this documentary, its structure can be observed as one of a collage. In order to more accurately reconstruct the story of Serb prisoners in Austro-Hungarian camps, the director used a variety of tools and techniques, including interviews, archival images, as well as staged scenes and confessions of prisoners, based on the original letters. Given that the topic is related to the events a hundred years ago, there were no living witnesses or survivors, the choice was limited to descendants who could be reached and who themselves barely possessed any more information about the fate of their ancestors. The information is therefore mostly extracted from historical material, texts
and photographs, and the entire approach to the film is journalistic. In order to better convey the essence of the story and effectively bring it to life for the film audience, staged scenes were inserted into the film, in which the actors took on the role of prisoners and their Austro-Hungarian guards. This is a standard technique, typical primarily for television program of historical and archival content.
Today, however, the question of its actuality can be posed. We are witnessing innovation and experimentation, especially in the field of documentary film, where in order to study the medium and its ability to manipulate and convey the story, new techniques and approaches have been applied in the field of research and documenting stories, editing materials, merging genres that produce new hybrid forms. Essential questions are asked about the very ability to reconstruct and pass the story, about the general subjectivity, the mechanisms of experience and the ability of the medium to convey or imitate these mechanisms. We can ask ourselves of how successful is the mixture of authentic interviews and shown photographs on the one hand and staged scenes on the other hand in communication with the modern viewer, already familiar and accustomed to bolder, more experimental approaches and forms. How much such a structure contributes to the authenticity of the story itself, and how much it pushes it into the domain of storytelling with the ambition to be instructive, suggestive. The consequence can often be the complete opposite of the intended effect. The story itself is extremely moving and offers a lot of space for the viewer to communicate with it on different levels, so that any additional underlining of its drama seems to actually diminish its effect and steal from it the authenticity so disturbingly
recorded in the photos shown. Therefore, the question arises whether such a relevant and valuable content of "7000 souls" requires perhaps a different form, more reduced and pragmatic, focused on conveying its content to the viewer while preserving all its fragile facets, without the attempt to accentuate and enhance anything.