Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
Bosnia And Herzegovina/Austria/Romania/Netherlands/Germany/Poland/France/Norway/Turkey, 2020. Coop99 Filmproduktion, Deblokada Produkcija, Digital Cube, Extreme Emotions, Indie Prod, N279 Entertainment, Radiotelevizija Bosne i Hercegovine, Razor Film Produktion GmbH, TRT, Tordenfilm AS, ZDF/Arte, Osterreichischer Rundfunk. Screenplay by Jasmila Zbanic. Cinematography by Christine A. Maier. Produced by Damir Ibrahimovich, Jasmila Zbanic. Music by Antoni Lazarkiewicz. Production Design by Hannes Salat. Costume Design by Malgorzata Karpiuk, Ellen Lens. Film Editing by Jaroslaw Kaminski.
Dutch United Nations Officers sit in consultation with the mayor of the Yugoslavian town of Srebrenica, assuring them that their town has been designated a safe zone by the UN and the Serbian Srpska army will not do them any harm, their conversation facilitated by translator Aida (Jasna Djuricic). It feels as if no time passes before the town has been defeated by the Serbs, who are running tanks through empty streets while a few thousand Muslim Bosniak citizens are crowded in a UN base and many more are waiting outside the gates, terrified of what will happen next. Aida is official UN personnel and is working as a translator in the building but her husband and two sons are outside and she has to undergo numerous maneuvers to get them in while continuing her duties. When it looks like the Serbs are coming to evacuate everyone to another town, she does everything in her power to keep her family with her, or at least hide them in the base, fully unconvinced that they or any of her fellow Bosniaks will survive whatever is coming to them. The Dutch, meanwhile, are understaffed and lack supplies, waiting for reinforcements of all kinds that are not coming and more or less let commander Ratko Mladic roll right over them, offering no resistance when he loads people on buses and escorts them away. The end result is only a Wikipedia search away so there’s no need to go into the details, but what director Jasmila Zbanic has done with this tragic event (and the hopeless folly of those who did so little to stop it) is a breathtaking drama that describes a perverted world turned on its ear, where former neighbours are holding guns at each other’s faces after having lived with each other in the same town. The film is a stripped down affair that follows behind Djuricic’s exceptional performance as she is constantly on the run through the base, back and forth asking for help from UN personnel who have nothing to offer her but rules and regulations and, it seems, a naïve belief that both sides have a noble idea of the rules of war. As much as Zbanic does not spare the reputation of the Serbian side of the conflict, she saves her most pointed and devastating criticism for the United Nations and its apparent existence as a lip-service organization that means well but ultimately does more harm than good. Many aspects of this film will provoke controversy and that is good, what else should one feel about such events but rage at the way that politics hinders human existence instead of supporting it; we end the film on a haunting note, in which life resumes in a place where people must be neighbours with their former foes, and memories of pain are passed on to the next generation. This is an exceptional use of art as a way to express the importance of a story through one person’s experience, and every moment of it is fascinating.
Academy Award Nomination: Best International Feature Film
European Film Awards: Best European Film; Best European Actress (Jasna Duricic); Best European Director (Jasmila Zbanic)
Nominations: Best European Screenwriter
Toronto International Film Festival: Selection 2020
Venice Film Festival: In Competition 2020