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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Hollywood turns cameras on Karadzic
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Sarajevo

Richard Gere in Sarajevo
Gere says the West could benefit from studying people like Karadzic
Richard Gere shakes my hand and smiles.

"This really is a nice city and the women are so beautiful," he says, before making his excuses and disappearing down a small street in Sarajevo's old Turkish quarter to film the next scene.

It is the early hours of the morning and a Hollywood film crew with blazing lights and buzzing walky-talkies is being put through its paces in the shadow of a mosque.

Hundreds of locals are staying up late to see the screen legend and his entourage.

But this is a serious matter.

'CIA hit team'

The film, called Spring Break in Bosnia, tells the true story of a group of journalists who in 2000 went on the trail of Europe's most wanted man, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos
The film is based on Harald Doornbos' personal experiences

In the course of their adventure, they got mistaken for a CIA hit team.

Mr Karadzic has been accused of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for his role during the Bosnian War, including the three-and-a-half year siege of Sarajevo.

But he is still on the run more than a decade after the war ended.

One of the journalists involved, Harald Doornbos, is working as an adviser to the film-makers.

"At the time, Serbs came forward believing we were CIA agents," he says.

"They were offering us information, thinking they would receive the $5m reward. We told them we were just journalists but they didn't believe us.

"What started as a joke soon became quite serious."

Conspiracy theory

Although nothing ultimately came of their adventure, Hollywood bought the rights to their story.

Filming in the old Turkish quarter in Sarajevo
The film is due to be released next year

"Let's focus the light on what happened here and let's ask the people in charge why we haven't caught these people," says the film's director, Richard Shepard, who says he cannot believe that Mr Karadzic is still free.

"There seem to be a lot of deals and secrets on every side and a lot of countries - including America, the UK, France - who have a lot of explaining to do.

"I'm sure if Karadzic was caught, he'd start saying things that people did not want to hear," Mr Shepard adds.

'Not surprised'

The multi-million dollar production is being filmed in Bosnia and Croatia and is due for release next year.

Besides focusing on an issue that has disappeared from the world's headlines, the presence of a Hollywood film company is a welcome boost to the local economy.

I think we're all capable of that, doing horrible things
Richard Gere
US actor

Up in the mountains a few kilometres away, Radovan Karadzic's daughter, is drinking cherry juice in the Jet Set restaurant.

She shakes her head in resignation and tells me she is not surprised the film company never contacted the family.

"It wouldn't make any difference. They've already made up their minds that my father is a war criminal."

'Horrible things'

A few thousand international peacekeepers still patrol the hills and villages that make up most of Bosnia. Part of their task is to search for indicted war criminals.

Radovan Karadzic. File photo
Karadzic is accused of genocide by The Hague tribunal

"From more than 100 indicted war criminals, there are now only six," says Derek Chappell, spokesman at Nato headquarters in Sarajevo.

"Nato has been aggressive and robust in carrying out our mission. We continue to carry out operations as and when intelligence gives us targets. But all of the evidence suggests these people may not be in this country," he adds.

Back on the film set, Richard Gere, is taking time out in the Hodzic cafe.

"I think we have a lot to learn from them (people like Mr Karadzic)," he says.

"Why they are the way they are. And why we are so vulnerable to them that we can get sucked into their world view and become violent.

"I think we're all capable of that, doing horrible things. So I think there is much to learn from these guys."


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