'A New Home' brings the St. Louis Bosnian community to life
By Chuck Lavazzi
In "A New Home," director Joseph Puleo’s offers a warm introduction to and an historical context for the St. Louis Bosnian community, where more displaced Bosnians reside than any other city in the world. Through an illuminating combination of individuals who describe their personal experiences and authorities who provide a bureaucratic, institutional framework, the necessity to leave Bosnia becomes clear.
The various individual Bosnians, all with very good camera presence, present a variety of stories supported by archival footage. Most regrettably, as one man says, “We lived all together. We never thought about names or divided each other by names. All life was supporting each other.” That was before the war. Indeed, it’s sobering to see Bosnian war footage, presenting the horrors of that war, especially neighbor turning on neighbor, and the long-term impact, both emotionally and physically. Just seeing the ruins is profoundly sad, and Puleo doesn't sugarcoat the horror and terror of the massacres, beginning with a title card: “The following contains graphic images. Viewer discretion advised.” Such explicit content is important to establish the Bosnians’ courage, resilience, and dreams for a better life after, as the narrator says, “having lost everything.” Wisely, Puleo analytically presents sobering aspects of the Bosnians' lives, for it is critical for viewers to realize what these men, women, and families have had to abandon, how lives they previously enjoyed were destroyed.
Through on-camera interviews with scholars who describe the rise of nationalism, religious affiliations, and geographic divisions; through maps, photos, and well-chosen national news coverage; Puleo interweaves in-depth analysis with Bosnian refugees offering tragic memories. The music is effective, interpreting images without interfering or overpowering them. “A New Home” adds another significant chapter on St. Louis’ challenges, prejudices, and opportunities, with Bosnians revitalizing the Bevo Mill area. To its credit, the International Institute of St. Louis aided in navigating bureaucracy and impressive Bosnian transitions to a new country. As in his documentary "America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill," Puleo brings this vibrant, admirable community to life. An inspirational story, “A New Home” is streaming now on the Amazon Prime Video.