Kiss the Future

Kiss the Future is an excellent combination of historical documentary and music documentary. Early scenes take us back to the 1990s, when Serbian president Slobodan Milošević launched an attack on the city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. Operating on a nationalist platform, he wanted to claim as much of Serbia as possible. Sarajevo was not sold on nationalism, though, as it was a place where different ethnicities and religions coexisted peacefully. When he instructed the military to fire upon the city, citizens went into underground clubs and discos, blasting rock-and-roll and dance music to drown out the sounds of explosions.

Life under those circumstances is described by on-camera interviewees, most notably filmmaker Bill Carter, who recorded some of what was taking place in those clubs. He and others discuss the continual danger of sniper fire upon setting foot outside. Large shipping containers littered the city, offering a place to hide from the gunfire. Many of us remember this time in history, but hearing such personal stories helps to contextualize it. Providing valuable additional context are former U.S. president Bill Clinton and journalist Christiane Amanpour, the latter of whom built her reputation through urgent on-the-ground reporting during the war.

Because Sarajevo was a center of culture, many of the people there were creative types. Targeting artists was a way of quashing any creations that might help instigate rebellion or dissent. The movie zooms in on that idea, suggesting that it was, in fact, a major tactical error on Milošević’s part, since art has an extensive history of inspiring anti-tyranny movements. In times of crisis, it smartly points out, we seek solace in the arts. Trying to stop artistic freedom only gives it strength.

And that’s exactly what happened. Kiss the Future brings in a musical aspect by showing in detail how Carter, against all odds, made contact with rock band U2. They, of course, were known for political activism. After snagging an interview with singer Bono, Carter was able to convey the seriousness of the situation. Before long, U2 was incorporating live broadcasts from Sarajevo into their ZOO TV tour, bringing increased attention to the city in the process. The movie liberally uses clips of Bono’s interview, along with footage from their concerts, helping to paint a picture of how having one of the world’s biggest bands notice their plight gave those living in the war zone inspiration to persevere.

Bono and fellow U2 members The Edge and Adam Clayton reflect on their decision to involve themselves in Sarajevo. Their comments are enlightening, and you realize how fortunate the world was to have them around during the ‘90s. No other musical act from that period had the same commitment to world events and political activism. Could you envision Backstreet Boys or Sugar Ray pausing their concerts for a serious message from a city torn apart like that? The documentary uses the scenario to dive into the transformative power of music. Performing a song may be simple yet it has the ability to make people feel seen, heard, and not alone.

Kiss the Future ends on a triumphant note, as U2 finally comes to Sarajevo to perform live. Footage of Bono becoming emotional onstage is almost as affecting as the shots of the audience visibly coming together and healing over a shared passion for good music. Saying music can change the world has become a bit of a cliché. Director Nenad Cicin-Sain’s dynamic, uplifting film reminds viewers that the cliché is 100% true.

out of four

Kiss the Future is unrated, but contains strong language and mature thematic content. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan