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Bosnia: Angelina Jolie film lets Bosnia rape victims speak

Publish Date: 23 Dec 2011
Source: AFP
By: Rusmir Smajilhodzic

Angeliana Jolie directs a scene during filming of her movie "In the Land of Blood and Honey" in Sarajevo in October (AFP, Szabolcs Barakonyi Index)
A film crew prepare the set during shooting of Angelina Jolie's film "Untitled Love Story" in Sarajevo (AFP, Elvis Barukcic)
Angelina Jolie (right) meets Bosnian Muslim refugee Sabina Karaman in Medjedja village last year (AFP, AMEL EMRIC)

SARAJEVO — Hollywood star Angelina Jolie's directing debut is winning praise in Bosnia for its realistic portrayal of the country's bloody 1992-95 conflict.

"It is a movie that shows the truth about the war in Bosnia," Sekib Sokolovic, a professor at Sarajevo's medical faculty told AFP after a special advance screening of the film that is due to open in the United States on Friday.

"People have been asking for 20 years how it is possible to kill others like that, to torture, what drives people to commit crimes."

"In the Land of Blood and Honey" is expected to hit European screens in February.

"The message is universal, a message to prevent the same things from happening somewhere else," Sokolovic said.

The movie sparked controversy in Bosnia earlier this year when local media speculated it would tell the story of a Muslim rape victim who fell in love with her Serb attacker.

In fact the film shows a couple who had a fling before the war and meet up again when the woman is taken prisoner by a unit of the Bosnian Serb army commanded by her former lover.

He shields her at first but is transferred and she suffers the same abuse and rape at the hands of the soldiers as the other women held with her.

The film doesn't hold back and shows stark scenes of rape, executions and other war crimes. Most of the actors are from the region.

"Angelina Jolie gave me an extremely important chance, to lend my voice to those women who lived through the horrors of Bosnia's war," said Sarajevo-born Zana Marjanovic, who plays the main female role.

"The move shows the truth about the rapes of women, executions of innocent civilians, children ..." said Boris Ler, a Sarajevan who plays a soldier of the mainly Muslim Bosnian army.

Bosnian government officials estimate that some 20,000 women, mainly Muslim, were victims of sexual abuse during Bosnia's war. The conflict, between the Balkan country's Croats, Muslims and Serbs, claimed about 100,000 lives.

Many Bosnian viewers praised the film for showing the horrors of a war that turned neighbours and friends into enemies.

"It is a lesson for future generations. Every inhabitant of Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia should see it," pensioner Seid Karic said.

"The movie is too moving. I like it but I had a hard time watching it, it reminded me of so many things, so many situations," 28-year-old Adnan Veiz said.

"The question that the movies raises is how people change during the war, how it affects them and how difficult it is to remain human in these horrible circumstances," actress Marjanovic said.

"Each character has his own history, no character is simply black or white. The movie does not impose a judgment, it tells a story that has happened."

She said Jolie had tried to give an equal voice to both Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs, but several critics have remarked that the film makes it pretty clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

Another Sarajevo-born actress, Vanesa Glodjo, said the theme of the Bosnian war had "touched Jolie's heart".

"She informed herself about the war from the outside, from an objective point of view, and she completed the image with the stories that we have lived through. That is why the movie is, I believe, complete and authentic," the 37-year-old said.

"We all brought our own life experiences to the movie. Me maybe most of all, as I lived on the frontline in Sarajevo during the war and saw the deaths of many young men, the suffering of mothers who lost their children," said Glodjo, who was wounded during the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital.

Copyright © 2012 AFP