A chance encounter has led one University of Missouri–St. Louis student to direct a film that’s about to get serious attention.
Hari Secic is the first Bosnian student to participate in an exchange program between UMSL and the University of Sarajevo. His new documentary, “Harvard Man,” is about to debut at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase as part of the festival’s presentation of documentary shorts.
Secic’s film tells the story of Irhad Sehovic, a 2014 graduate of Bayless High School in south St. Louis County, and the first graduate in the school’s history to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Sehovic is the product of parents who met in Germany after they had both escaped war in the former Yugoslavia. Eventually, the couple made their way to St. Louis, where they raised their children with an emphasis on academic achievement and hard work.
“Harvard Man” is the first in a series of documentaries about the Bosnian diaspora in the United States planned by Secic and Rita Csapo-Sweet through their company, Bad Attitude Productions. Secic did an interview for an online Bosnian news show and learned some interesting information about one of the young men working on the camera crew.
“It turned out that Irhad was working as a cameraman and he told me he’d applied to Harvard,” Secic said. “When he told me the good news that he was accepted, I was excited.”
St. Louis is home to a large Bosnian community that grew when many came here as refugees after the war in the former Yugoslavia. About 60,000 Bosnians are estimated to live in the St. Louis area, with many concentrated in south St. Louis city and county. Rita Csapo-Sweet, an associate professor of media studies, established UMSL’s exchange program with the University of Sarajevo to improve understanding of the country and its culture.
Secic is a student at the University of Sarajevo’s Academy of Performing Arts, where he’s studying film and theater directing. He studied at UMSL during the spring 2014 semester. Secic and Csapo-Sweet are in production on a documentary about a Bosnian truck driver named Sead. Many Bosnian refugees who came to Missouri founded or work for interstate trucking companies. Sead’s story is a metaphor for the post-war restlessness of so many of the Bosnians trying to make new lives in America.
The subject matter of “Harvard Man” is especially poignant considering the hardships that the Sehovic family had to endure as refugees and the fact that he is receiving a full scholarship to Harvard, said Csapo-Sweet, who served as the film’s producer.
“The fact that he’s going to Harvard is important because it’s not just an education,” said Csapo-Sweet, who received her master’s degree and doctorate from the university. “By attending Harvard, you become part of this incredible network of people all over the world who continue to do business and work together.”
Harvard Man will be shown as part of the presentation of documentary shorts by the Cinema St. Louis’ St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The showing will be 5 p.m. July 16 at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd., University City, Mo. Tickets are $12.