Director’s Statement

As Americans, we were concerned by the increasing polarization of our country after the 2000 elections.  Suddenly less than the sum of its parts, America was being boiled down to color-coding (red vs. blue), there was talk of “culture wars,” and the political rhetoric of fear threatened to drown out the reasonable debate of ideas.

At the same time, as members of the American media, we were troubled by the trend toward superficial and personality-driven news, where the flash and spectacle of the reporting drown out the subtleties of the stories themselves.

It was in that context that we first met Diane Brown, a former United Nations worker in Kosovo who was then running her own aid organization called Children’s HOPE.  Her tales of the societal stasis of Kosovo, of a place where all the might of NATO and UN still hadn’t healed the profound wounds of the politics of hate, astonished us.  Having been pushed off the front pages (and often out of the press altogether) by Iraq and Afghanistan, we conceived a documentary film to answer one question:

What happens after the bombs stop falling?

As we learned more about the region and its past, we knew we had a unique opportunity to explore the legacy of extremism and intolerance as well as make a complex documentary that challenged viewers to engage with strikingly polemicized worldviews.  America’s deepening involvement in other military exercises overseas made the aftermath of Kosovo’s war all the more relevant.

We intend this film to be neither pro-Albanian nor pro-Serb, but rather pro-tolerance and understanding.  We have tried to use the most neutral language possible on this website, in our press materials, and in the film itself.  While we have tried to recognize and eliminate terminology that might seem biased, in such a hotly charged environment inferences could be drawn where none were intended.

Creating this film was incredibly challenging, but the support of a very talented crew made it one of the most rewarding experiences of our careers. Above all else, VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a labor of love and respect for the art of filmmaking, for the intelligence of the viewer, and, most of all, for the remarkable people of Kosovo. 

About the Filmmakers

Laura Bialis, Producer / Director / Writer

An avid historian and film buff, Laura founded Sirena Films in 1998 as a way to fuse her love of history with her passion for filmmaking. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, her work as producer and director has ranged from documentaries about human rights, poverty, and wartime memories, to commercial projects for clients such as TV Guide Channel and Universal Television. 

It was 1999’s TAK FOR ALT – Survival of a Human Spirit, which Laura produced and co-directed with Broderick Fox and Sarah Levy, that first brought Laura’s documentary filmmaking to the attention of viewers across the United States. 

The story of Holocaust survivor turned Civil Rights activist Judy Meisel, TAK FOR ALT tells Judy’s story as a young girl coming of age during the Holocaust. The film accompanies Judy, now in her seventies, back to Eastern Europe to re-trace her wartime journey: from the Kovno Ghetto through the Stutthof Concentration Camp, and ultimately on to Denmark, where she was liberated and restored to health by an outpouring of Danish compassion. A remarkable testament to the resilience of Judy’s spirit, TAK FOR ALT also triumphs Judy’s personal journey from Holocaust victim to American Civil Rights activist. 

In 2000, TAK FOR ALT won the Anti-Defamation League’s Dore Schary Award.  The film enjoyed brief theatrical distribution, and aired on PBS in many major markets with a prime-time premiere on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2000.  The film was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as “one of the outstanding films of 1999” and was included in their prestigious Contemporary Documentary Screening Series. The film is now being used by teachers in over thirty states, and has been implemented into history curricula in many school districts.

Laura’s other work includes Daybreak Berlin, a narrative short based on the wartime memoirs of Ilse-Margret Vogel, a German artist and anti-Nazi resister living underground in Berlin during WWII, and Bread, a short documentary about hunger in Los Angeles, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Laura recently completed View From the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo, the first feature documentary ever made on the war-torn province, and is finishing post-production on Refusenik, a groundbreaking feature-length documentary about the 30-year international human rights campaign to free Soviet Jewry.

Laura graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in History in 1995, where she focused on wartime and post-war Europe. She also holds an M.F.A. in Production from the USC School of Cinema-Television.

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John Ealer, Producer / Director / Writer

John is a Los Angeles-based Director / Cinematographer for commercials, features and television. His recent cinematographer credits include the feature films Hacia La Oscuridad (2007, starring America Ferrera) and The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green (2006, Regent Releasing), the interactive Shuttle Launch Experience for Kennedy Space Center, the television pilot Kamen Rider, as well as countless other TV shows for the History Channel, The Food Network, among many others.

Another recent work, Ford Motor Company’s seven-screen multi-sensory film “The Art of Manufacturing,” recently opened to rave reviews at the new Henry Ford Rouge Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In 2004, John shot Unjoined at the Hip, a first-of-its-kind documentary about a conjoined twins separation surgery. John enjoyed unprecedented access to the surgical suite for the entire 26-hour operation, enabling him to capture the incredible determination that went into — and profound joy that resulted from — this successful procedure. One, a short film that John lensed, won the Online Audience Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.

John’s diverse director credits include promo campaigns for ABC, including the ProMax Award-Winning Secrets for the show Port Charles and All My Children’s Search for the Sexiest Man in America. John also won an Addy award for the Anti-Smoking Campaign, Money to Burn. John’s narrative work includes the successful short films The Lottery Ticket, featured at the Slamdance Online Festival in 2000, and the award-winning Tigers Made in Heaven.

John began his career as a cinematographer after receiving his MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television in 1999.

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Sarah Levy, Cinematographer

Sarah Levy is an award-winning cinematographer of both narrative and documentary films. Her work has aired on PBS, VH1, A&E, CBS, NBC, Discovery Health, the Sundance Channel, Showtime, and in festivals worldwide. Her most recent narrative work, In Between Days, received the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. 

Sarah received her MFA from the USC School of Cinema-Television where she was awarded the Thomas B. Bush Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Cinematography. In 2001, Sarah received the prestigious Arthur Miller Heritage Award from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the Kodak Emerging Filmmaker honor for her body of work from USC.

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William Haugse, Editor

Among the many accolades in his editing career, Bill Haugse has been nominated for an Oscar for Hoop Dreams (Fine Line) and an Emmy for The Last Days of Kennedy and King (Turner).  He has received the American Cinema Editors Eddie Award among many other prizes.

Sunset Story, an ITVS/PBS documentary about a residence for retired radicals, was the winner of a special jury prize at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was shown on PBS after a successful limited theatrical run.  Recent editing work also includes an in-depth study for PBS of three Afghani women entitled Naked in Ashes; a feature about Yogis in India, which according to the LA Times, was “beautifully crafted”; Stevie (Lions Gate), directed by Steve James; and Unprecedented, a critical study of the 2000 Florida presidential election produced by Robert Greenwald.

Other editing work includes the Universal feature Cattle Annie and Little Britches featuring Rod Steiger and Diane Lane and Paul’s Case starring Eric Roberts.   His credits also include scores of shorter films as director and editor, including his short feature Breakfast in Bed starring John Ritter.  He worked with Orson Welles and John Cassavetes editing shorter films, including making trailers for their films F For Fake and Opening Night.

Since 1996 Bill has been a member of the professional honorary ACE.

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Miriam Cutler, Composer

Miriam Cutler has scored numerous documentaries for PBS, HBO, IFC, and other TV networks, and many film festival favorites including:  GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB, THIN, ABSOLUTE WILSON, LOST IN LA MANCHA, CHINA BLUE, PANDEMIC: FACING AIDS, SCOUTS HONOR, STOLEN CHILDHOODS, HEART OF THE SEA, POSITIVELY NAKED, and LICENSED TO KILL.  She has also scored numerous indie films and provided music for studio films like ARLINGTON ROAD, BACHELOR PARTY, and GRANDVIEW USA. Since 1988, Cutler has been resident composer for Circus Flora, featured at Charleston's Spoleto Festival and New York’s Kennedy Center. 

She has co-produced live jazz albums on Polygram/Verve for Joe Williams, Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, and Marlena Shaw and has produced independently released albums of her own songs and soundtracks.  She has served on Documentary Film Festival juries for the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE, the INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS, and the INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY ASSOCIATION and has been a mentor for the SUNDANCE INSTITUTE’S Documentary Film Composer Lab.

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Behar Zogiani, Albanian Field Producer

Behar Zogiani, a Kosovar Albanian native, has been a print and broadcast journalist in Kosovo for more than twenty years.  He is the author of four books, including three non-fiction books about Kosovo.

He was on staff at Rilindja, Kosovo’s leading Albanian newspaper, for over fifteen years until its publication was halted during the NATO air strikes in 1999.  His work has also appeared on Nippon Television, Hungarian National Television, the Hungarian News Agency MTI, and in the Macedonian newspaper Flaka.

Behar has also worked as Senior TV Producer for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), been a public relations consultant for the US-based National Democratic Institute for Foreign Affairs, and spent three years as Media and Public Relations Advisor for IREX, the US International Exchange Board.


His other experience includes: Media and Public Relations Consultant for the United Nations Development Program and Documentary Producer for the International Organization on Migration.  He has taught seminars to journalists reporting on Human Trafficking, and, in 2003, he worked for the Iraq Provisional Authority as a Foreign Policy Advisor.


Behar currently teaches Media Ethics & International Law and Documentary Television at University AAB in Pristina.

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Jovica Miljkovic, Serbian Field Producer

Jovica Miljkovic was born in Suvi Do, a small Serbian village just outside Mitrovica, and now lives in North Mitrovica just a few hundred yards from the bridge.  He began studying for a degree in economics from the University of Pristina in 1994, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the war.  During the war and NATO bombing campaign, Jovica served in the Serbian military as an anti-aircraft gunner.  After the war, Jovica finished his studies, graduating in 2002.

Jovica has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as several other international organizations in Kosovo.  In June 2001, he co-founded a not-for-profit group called Children’s HOPE, which he continues to run.  Targeting the Mitrovica region’s most disadvantaged minority children and youth, Children’s HOPE provides access to educational, cultural and social activities as well as health and psychosocial care.  Its projects include English language and culture courses, a journalism program resulting in the creation of a children’s magazine, a community improvement youth group, creative workshop, as well as many other activities for children and youth ages 4-16.

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