Although most of the Sarajevo we see in Shot Through the Heart (Sunday, October 4; 8 to 10 p.m.; HBO) is really Budapest, this melancholy TV movie seems every bit as real as the news footage from luckless Bosnia. And the story is real, too – of best friends Vlado (Linus Roache), a Croat married to a Muslim, and Slavko (Vincent Perez), a Serb with whom Vlado hoped to team in sharpshooting competition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, who find themselves on opposite sides in the ethnic cleansing of an erstwhile Yugoslavia. One even wishes that the football stadium converted into mass graveyard, after the cemeteries were oversubscribed, had not been real. Yes, of course, the women and children (Lia Williams, Soo Garay, Viktória Bajza) refuse to quit the besieged city while there’s still time, and Slavko takes up arms for the cause of a greater Serbia, and Vlado trains irregulars on how to handle a rifle, and the only thing worse than an anonymous sniper who guns down civilians trying to scamper to a market or a hearth is a sniper you know to be your chosen brother, whom you must now hunt and kill as if he were a feral animal.
“This is Sarajevo, not Somalia. We are Europeans here,” says a wishful thinker early on in Shot Through the Heart. So much for white chauvinism, and dancing round a lamb roasted on a spit. No more than Amsterdam, with its playing-card façades, could have imagined a Nazi occupation, can multicultural Sarajevo imagine rape and fratricide. We know where this movie’s going, as directed by David Attwood from a script by Guy Hibbert, and we don’t want to go there. Isn’t it odd how especially cowardly a sniper seems, like a literary intellectual?