"This was the best punk rock band ever, because they actually invented something."
-- Bono, on the Ramones
On the Road to Sarajevo, Part III
February 19, 2003
Bill Carter beamed a warzone into the Zoo TV Tour and produced "The Road To Sarajevo," a classic cut on the Best Of 1990-2000 DVD. Third and final part of our U2.Com interview.
In this brief final part of our interview with Bill, he discusses the origins of the Miss Sarajevo documentary, plus his writing and photography since.
It was in 1997, working with an eccentric cabal of artists and activists -- The Serious Road Trip -- that Carter decided U2 could help spotlight what was happening in the Balkans to their European tour audiences.
And this is the final part of the interview.
How did the Miss Sarajevo documentary come about?
After the satellites U2 invited me to Dublin for a rest. Contrary to some floating stories it wasn't because I was in danger. Well, I was, but no more than usual. They just invited me to take a break. Which I accepted. And back in Verona Edge and Bono had promised me edit time to make the film. But of course things don't always go as planned.
The short story is that it came about by showing Edge a ten-minute demo I had cut with my editor Stephen O'Connell of Windmill Lane. The truth is there were some who didn't think there was a movie to be made out of the footage. I thought there was. Edge saw the demo at Bono's house and said I needed to do something with this. The next night Bono saw it and with his backing I was able to stay in Ireland and edit the film. The title came from him. I had told him about the Miss Sarajevo beauty contest in the war and he said, "Call it 'Miss Sarajevo' and I will write you a song." At first I didn't like the title. It seemed too light. But of course there could really be no other title. And the song, it's perfect. In the lyrics Bono nailed the sense of surrealism, of beauty that comes from living with such grace under pressure. And the music, partly rock, partly opera seems to fit the juxtaposition of what war was everyday in that city. Something that was happening but yet a part of your brain knows this was a not a normal way to live.
The movie, like the satellites, was not intended to inform people of the history or hard-core facts of the war. It was intended to shine a light on some people. To show that they are just trying to live and were dying because of that.
What have you been doing in the years since ?
Well, I went back and forth to the war until it was over. After it ended I spent time trying to find steady ground again. War has a way of messing with your nervous system. And your survival skills are too revved up. So finding a balance is important. I find that in nature. I just finished a book, Where Water Comes Together, which includes the themes of your questions and much much more. The story begins long before the war in Sarajevo and ends well after it ends. The story of U2's involvement, seen from my angle, and from inside Sarajevo, and the satellites and Miss Sarajevo are all in the book, but they are just a piece of the puzzle. I will be posting chapters from the middle of the book, events relating to U2, on the web site for the next few months.
Since the war, and due in large part to the success of Miss Sarajevo, I have had the good fortune of being able to travel the world and write articles for magazines and do my photography. I have written stories on Algeria, Morocco, the Middle East and beyond. I also was in Florida the day after the 2000 elections and spent a month there trying to understand the belly of the beast we call America. I went to the Sierra Madres in Mexico to investigate the killings of Tarahumara Indians by drug traffickers. And I did a story of walking 300 miles in the Utah desert in 30 days. I am currently the reporter-at-large for GEAR magazine, not that I have any idea what that actually means.
Also, with Bono, I have been working on a feature length script, which we hope one day will make it to the big screens. I also filmed the making of Emmylou Harris' Grammy winning record Red Dirt Girl. And I am currently making a short film on a band from Tucson called Calexico, which is an offshoot of Giant Sand, another band which I have been filming for more than two years.
And of course there's everyday. This summer I started off picking tomatoes in Northern California and then went to work as a crew member on a salmon fishing boat in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It was the hardest work I had ever done. Then I landed in Prague, by chance, during the floods. From there I was invited to a festival in Kosovo to show Miss Sarajevo, which had an overwhelming response.
It seems to have worked out that when I am not traveling I am involved in music. It strikes a good balance in life. And it is probably why the connection with U2 made sense in the first place. Music, besides, our sense of smell, is one of the only things in this life that defies borders and more importantly time. With music, such an intensely personal experience, we can transport ourselves into the past, the future, or just sit tight right here in the present.
When in America I spend it mostly in either northern California or in southern Arizona. Currently I am in Bisbee, Arizona, a mountain town six miles from the Mexican border, where I have a photo show going up soon. And occasionally, when in town, I have been known to tend bar at the Copper Queen hotel.
© U2.com, 2003.