Review: Wartime Documentary Kiss the Future Centers Artists in Sarajevo Alongside U2

For the last couple of weeks, members of the band U2 and others connected to the documentary Kiss the Future (including producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) have been doing the talk-show circuit declaring that this film isn’t a movie about U2. Instead, they claim, it’s a film about the 1990s siege of Sarajevo during the absolutely savage Bosnian War and the defiance that grew out of an underground community of artists and musicians who worked to effect change and get some amount of media attention focused on the conflict and stories of survival. Knowing that members of U2 were tracking what was going on in Sarajevo, American aid worker/journalist Bill S. Carter (whose memoir Fools Rush In is the basis for the doc) reached out to U2, saying he was a reporter for a Sarajevo television station. Eventually, he gets a one-on-one interview with lead singer Bono, who then provided updates on the situation in the war zone every night via satellite during the band’s ZooTV tour. So the truth of the matter is, this is a U2 movie and perhaps the best version of one, showing how the band’s activist tendencies actually resulted in real exposure for this horrible situation.

But before director Nenad Cicin-Sain even gets to U2's involvement in the siege on Sarajevo, he interviews and gives us an incredible wealth of archival footage of how people in Sarajevo managed to have concerts, art shows, stand-up comedy, and even beauty pageants in underground (sometimes bombed-out) buildings. The Miss Sarajevo beauty pageant even inspired the song “Miss Sarajevo” by the U2-Brian Eno side project, Passengers. It’s these stories from musicians, journalists, and others living and working in the war zone that form the heart and soul of Kiss the Future. And while U2 is the focal point of the film, especially in its second half, it’s these very personal, often tragic stories from the artists themselves that breathe life into this documentary.

Of course, the entirety of the film is building up to two events: the eventual end of the war after UN intervention, and whether U2 would make good on a promise to play in Sarajevo (at that point, they were on an entirely different tour). There will be tears while watching Kiss the Future, especially during a montage of locals listening to and singing along with U2’s “One,” a song whose words mean something entirely different during and immediately after wartime. The movie is a heartfelt tale of humanity attempting to be its best while those around them are at their worst, and it serves as a memory for the people who lived through this nightmare. There’s no reason for the filmmakers to hide the U2-ness of it all; I think watching the members humbled into silence during various concerts as shell-shocked residents of Sarajevo wonder why more isn’t being done to help them is something everyone should see and embrace.

The film is now playing exclusively at AMC Theaters.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 

Picture of the author
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.