Fools Rush In is the inspiring story of Bill Carter, known to many U2 fans since the early 1990's. Carter, who filmed and directed the award-winning documentary Miss Sarajevo (produced by Bono) , fell in love with Corrina while working in a salmon canning factory in Alaska. Tragically, she died following a road accident; yet the outpouring of his grief became an extraordinary story of hope in the face of despair, driving him to try, at least, to live purposefully and positively for the sake of himself, her memory, and others.
Carter travelled to war-torn Bosnia in 1992, hitching a ride into Sarajevo with a maverick humanitarian aid convey called The Serious Road Trip. There, he experienced the longest siege in modern history, as Bosnian Serbs surrounded the city - in which Bosnians, Serbs and Croats co-existed peacefully - and killed 10,000 civilians, including almost 2,000 children.
Fools Rush In articulates the human will not just to survive in the face of death, but to live with dignity, humour, purpose and creativity. Carter's dogged determination to make a difference took him, ultimately, to U2 and to Bono, who he interviewed in Verona for Sarajevo TV. This meeting led not only to the famous live satellite links to Sarajevo from U2's Zoo TV tour in 1993, but to the acclaimed documentary Miss Sarajevo - a process which Carter, as cameraman, director and editor, describes in Fools Rush In as 'crystallising hope through the act of bearing witness'. Now Carter is writing the screenplay as plans develop for the book to be made into a film. Brian Draper spoke to Bill Carter for U2.Com. (It's a lengthy interview: this is part one, part two follows in a few days.)
U2.Com: Earlier in the summer you saw U2 open their European tour in Brussels and then, more recently, playing indoors in Oakland. Having been part of 13 shows doing the live links from Sarajevo, can you ever stop to really enjoy a U2 concert 'normally'?
Yes - I really enjoyed the Brussels show, and the sheer size of it. And in Oakland, Miss Sarajevo in particular was exceptional, the crowd seemed stunned by the opera notes!
I love U2's music, like everybody else does. Although I do find myself looking round at the magnitude of everything you can collect in one place, and asking whether that can make a difference. In that way, I relate it all back to the satellite link-ups and the concert in Sarajevo and I think, Wow!
I try to forget the fact that I was this incredibly alone dude, stuck in a building after all those satellite link-ups. It was one of the loneliest things of my entire life.
U2.Com: I was at Wembley in 1993 when you did your last live link. It must be odd for you, never having experienced one yourself from the receiving end.
If you go to a U2 show, you're always gonna get something comin' atcha. I reflect back - I have to. I reflect on the power of bringing a lot of people together through music. It was a very intense time. And most of my experience at that time was pretty 'inside'. I had no U2 experience. I didn't see this from the outside.
It was really strange when I went to a show in Dublin in 1993. I'd just left Sarajevo and that was an insanely surreal experience for me.
U2.Com: Because of the juxtaposition between Sarajevo and the concert?
Right. It was very hard for me to talk to people, very hard to stand still, very hard to know what was going on. I wanted to yell stuff to people about what was happening. And I was waiting for that moment when the satellite would have come in - of course it wasn't going to, because I was standing there in Dublin. It was very frustrating - the war was raging while I was watching U2. Hey, that's life. But that time in those concerts - that was a big jack of energy.
U2.Com: Is the same power still there in a U2 show today?
Debt relief isn't a sexy thing - it's not a war. But it's something we need to get our heads around. And Bono is like the conductor of a train that's going slowly uphill; he's like a conductor who's not getting off that train until it gets over the pass. U2 are still on that mission, but in their own way.
U2.Com: I found Fools Rush In profoundly moving. What sort of feedback are you having from it?
Writing a book is a very strange experience, because you're so alone. It took me years to write, but the response has been overwhelming - different people from different cultures and countries, and for very different reasons. There are those who read it as a story, those who find it meets them at their own level, those who have gone through personal loss and grief.
And the U2 fans - the cool thing is that they've come to the book because of the U2 side of things, but that's not what they get out of it. The book isn't about U2, and I think it's really cool when they get that. It's about something totally else.
I think people are finding the overall story - the journey - moving.
U2.Com: In the book, you describe your task as 'crystallising hope through the act of bearing witness'. But what do you hope to achieve?
It's a good question. When you start anything like that - a book or a film, the response you might get and the hope that you might achieve something isn't the first thing you think about. I wanted to clear my mind of a lot of things.
Writing the manuscript and having it in my hand was the crowning moment. It was done. So many people have asked me over the last few years what I 'do', and I'm like, "Oh, read this book!" It's a lot easier to deal with it.
But you feel really blessed by the effect it has on other people. I didn't know whether anyone would read it beyond my family - you just don't know.
U2.Com: And has it been cathartic?
Immeasurably. 100 per cent. It worked. I was walking around for many years with this stuff in my head, preoccupied with it. It's a very intense experience for some people to read that book. It's an intense life, and one of things I really wanted to get across is that some of your life should be lived at that peak.
U2.Com: It left me wanting to make a difference to the world around me. And yet it was all set amid an overwhelming sense of horror and perversion. The surreal humour of the Sarajevans, their black comedy, their music - it all seems to offer hope, where there should be none.
I think you've nailed it, there. It's right at the core of everything - the book, [the documentary] Miss Sarajevo, the satellites... Here's the deal - if you just sit around and talk about it in a coffee shop, that's one thing. But you have to live that story. It's not me telling you to be inspired.
I would tell it to complete strangers - in a bar in Morocco, or something. And it was my way of working the story out in my head. I knew I had something to talk about; the trick, of course, is to make it interesting.
U2.Com: There's a kind of sacredness to the story. You ask God for signs and you seem to get them, for instance. Did you have a sense that God was with you?
It's a dangerous question. As a human being, yes, I feel this world we're in is a powerful and beautiful place - I do believe that. And I believe there's a very powerful presence in life. I don't think it's something I rely on for fixing my problems. That's not the God who I think is hanging around.
It's much more about love, you know? Not goofy love, not "I love my puppy and shit", but about life and people. You can talk forever about religion, but it comes down to some pretty basic fundamentals that make a lot of sense: Do unto others what you want done to you. That's the most basic rule of life, and if you can follow that, I think you're doing OK.
A lot of cynics approached me - saying we were doomed for the satellites, and everything - but being cynical is the easy way out. We can all sit around and complain, but to get involved and believe in other people, that you can move them, and believe in yourself...It's a harder journey, but the rewards are much higher, too.
U2.Com: Did your views of human nature change as a result of your time in Sarajevo? You saw some hellish things but experienced some heavenly people.
When I came out of that war, I had a harder edge to me. But it was post-traumatic stress or something.
The heinous things I saw were horrible - I know what people can do to each other. And it's quite extreme. But at the same time, I never lost hope, because I always think that what people can do to each other is incredible.
If you shoot a bunch of men in the back and put them in a pit, it's dramatic. If I give you a glass of water because you have none, that's a great human moment, but it's not so dramatic.
When I met the sisters in the book for the first time, I was on the verge of leaving Sarajevo. I didn't know what I was doing there - all I was doing was watching people die. I was on the verge of becoming a war tourist, which is a horrifying, immoral thing to be.
And when I met them, there was this kind of innocence about them and their family. We only shared an afternoon with them like we would share an afternoon in London or wherever. But I thought such an afternoon was impossible in a place like that. And it totally inspired me to get my shit together and figure out how I could get involved.
The problem is that if you get involved with people in a place like that, then there's trouble. You tell me the friend that can leave the other friend on the side of the street. You're now involved.
U2.Com: Were you aware of the potency of music before your experience in Sarajevo?
Music's always been a part of my life. I found in travelling the world as a backpacker prior to Sarajevo, I could be anywhere, but if I had music, even in a completely new place, it would provide a new way for us to communicate - instantaneously. A little smile, a move of the head, and all of a sudden it's breaking down barriers. That can break through shit.
I went to Trinidad for a year before I went to Sarajevo, and it's one of those places where music literally plays an integral part in people's lives. Every day - how they relate, how they move, how they walk. They're pretty cool people.
U2.Com: In the documentary, you filmed an orchestra playing in what looks like a bombed out building. That was very moving.
It's an unbelievable moment for the film. You've no idea how hard it is to get a hundred people to come together in one room during a war. There are no phones. Someone was going door to door to arrange for everyone to meet on Wednesday at 4 o'clock. And people are hauling their instruments about town, dodging snipers. It's unbelievable. It's fuckin' incredible, and when I went down into that room, I just wanted to cry. I know how hard it is to get hold of one person in the city. How do all these people know to get out here?
One of our greatest human achievements is symphonies. It's a beautiful expression of being human, and that music is incredible. So the fact that they were doing it there was beautiful.
U2.Com: Have you ever reflected on why it was U2 - specifically - that you went after so doggedly in Sarajevo?
The U2 part has always been very strange for me. At the time of the war, they were just another band, a big band. But when I was in Trinidad, I didn't have any contact with the outside world. I was grieving, and I didn't want to see any one or talk to any body in my life. I had three tapes when I was out there, and they played three very different parts in this process of grief. One was U2's Achtung Baby. And I don't know what that means - maybe it means nothing - but I found it very interesting, to be there, a year later, doing the satellite links, and thinking, Wow, what was all that about?
I don't try to bring a calculated meaning to every coincidence that happens to me; I believe in little pieces of magic. I don't know why it was U2, but I believe it was meant to be them.
(Part Two of this interview will follow in a few days.)