ACROSS THE BORDER
Documentary film, IMX, colour, stereo
Croatian Television, Croatian Film Clubs’ Association
The film was partly financed by the City of Zagreb – City Office for Culture.
On one side of the border we have a small Croatian town Gunja, and on the other town Brčko which has a status of a district in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are connected with a bridge which is used daily, without any special formalities, by many people and during working days even large groups of school children.
In fact, Croatian Gunja, with its five to six thousand inhabitants, is permanently - economically, culturally and educationally - directed to Brčko. Years ago, pregnant women from Gunja used to go to Brčko hospital to give birth; this way giving guaranteed double citizenship to those children. To them, as well as the rest of Gunja population, and the neighboring villages, this little town across the border is appealing also because of existential reasons: many home supplies, including groceries, are considerably cheaper there than in Croatia; getting your driver's license is twice cheaper in Brčko than in Croatia. After all, young people often leave gloomy Gunja for this town across the border in search for entertainment and good time, where according to many, Brčko has places where you can find good rock music whereas in Gunja cheap 'folk' music is dominating the bar scene.
'Permeability' of the border between these two countries, as an admirable proof of good relationship between neighbors, has its 'dark' side, too. Years ago, 'half' of Gunja used to work in Brčko: however, at the beginning of war, when the bridge was demolished, everyone who worked there lost their jobs. This sudden harsh poverty of Gunja people took especially hard toll on the high-school children: since there are no high-schools in Gunja, students are referred to Županja, which is 35 kilometers far from Gunja, or even to Vinkovci or Osijek. Since their parents, many of them unemployed, were left with no other option but to pay their children's travel expenses, having been rejected by all responsible social institutions in Croatia who either couldn't or didn't want to take the responsibility for this, the parents were faced with the one possible option and that is to enroll their children in a high-school in Brčko, where the curriculum is largely adapted to Croatian students' needs. However, this schooling across the border, which frees the students the hassle of everyday bus drive, having in mind that the buses have no heating and are questionably safe, brings into question how much parents are saving here. The situation is, those students who are going to school in another country, according to current Croatian laws, loose their right to state funded children's allowance, and seventy two of them are in this category!
However paradoxical, some of the wealthier Croatian children from Brčko district (and other towns in this area of Bosnia and Herzegovina) are able to do what some of the children from Gunja are not, and that is to go across the border in their family cars or take any of the buses on that route and head to Gunja, Županja, Vinkovci or Osijek and go to school there and get the education according to current Croatian education laws.
Besides having the focal point of the film 'Across the border' dedicated to the interpretation of the acrid social paradox of schooling of Croatian children in Brčko district, the whole process additionally hardened by mass emigration of people from this district, it also shows the overall vast spiritual scarcity of this region by the river Sava, which, because of this and every other aspect, drew young people from Gunja and other towns in the area to Brčko.
However, mitigating side of this fairly depressing story is comprised in the flexibility of the border. The fact that people can move both ways without any obstacles, made many people believe that this border cross, with its 'pliancy', tolerance and admirable permeability between the two countries, could become a true exercise of good neighborly relations.