How would it affect you to have to translate gruesome court testimony? Three interpreters at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague discuss the gulf between professionalism and the intense emotion generated by their work.
One of them had to stop translating when he saw the video of homicidal Serbians forcing a man to call out to fellow Muslims who had hidden in the woods that they would be safe and could come out. Another stayed drunk for a month after hearing the testimony of a Serbian chauffeur who drove Muslims in Srebrenica to their place of execution—the interpreter was unable to cope emotionally with the idea that when the chauffeur was left with a boy, he phoned a commander during the night, who got up to go out and shoot the child. “Who gets up at 3, 4, 5 o’clock in the morning to kill a boy?”
The harrowing interviews are juxtaposed with impassive interior shots of the courtroom, making the disconnect between detached professionalism and the intense emotions felt by the interpreters all the more potent and palpable.