What beauty pageants have to do with war tragedy and the power of rock.
Between 1992 and 1996, The Siege of Sarajevo claimed tens of thousands of lives and its place in textbooks as the longest siege of a world capital in the history of modern warfare, as the rest of the world stood idly by. In the summer of 1993, American aid worker Bill Carter smuggled himself out of Sarajevo and into U2’s backstage in Verona, telling the band about the situation there. Bono immediately sprang to action, wanting to play a concert in Sarajevo, but was told not to go because the situation had gotten too dangerous. So, instead, he decided to do something that had never been done before — send a satellite dish instead and play a satellite show, long before the age of telecommuting and digi-presence.
But the satellite show wasn’t enough for Bono and he resolved to eventually play a real concert. In 1997, he kept his promise, making U2 the first major artist to play a concert in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina — an extraordinary event that brought together people of different ethnicities who had fiercely clashed during the war. Missing Sarajevo is the story of this epic concert’s making, a fascinating microdocumentary about the political power of rock.
From the formidable setlist, including the song “Miss Sarajevo,” which Bono and Brian Eno wrote about a beauty pageant held at the peak of the war, to this profound human moment on stage, the concert was a poetic exercise in human connectedness in the midst of social and political turmoil. The documentary is available on YouTube in two parts, gathered below for your edutainment:
In many ways, that U2 concert played the same role Twitter did in this month’s Egyptian revolution — giving a voice to the repressed and oppressed to break the silence of the world. And regardless of which way the debates on whether or not that constitutes “real” activism, one thing is clear: Voice is always better than voicelessness.