Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams
2006, NR, 107 min. Directed by Jasmila Zbanic. Starring Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic, Kenan Catic, Leon Lucev, Bogdan Diklic.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 18, 2007
As ever, the first casualty of war is truth, but it's easy to forget just how long the lies last, one piled atop the other like a house of cards, smoldering around the edges, and ripe for unpleasant revelation. This first feature from Bosnian director/writer Zbanic is an almost Dogme 95 slice of life after hell – so much about what happened remains cloistered behind walls of shame and the necessities of survival. The waves of executions (mass graves are turning up to this day on a nightmarishly regular basis) that turned neighbor against neighbor and tore the viscera (literal and otherwise) from the former Yugoslavia included not just the by-now-routine shell-shocking of the civilian populace but also the less-obvious psychic damage brought on by years of torture, rape, and worse. Sarajevo remains in ruins, but widowed single mother Esma (Karanovic) has managed to not only survive the death of hope but to invest her own sense of "getting on with it" in her tweenage tomboy daughter, Sara (the revelatory Mijovic). It's Sara who discovers, tentatively, a bridge to the other kids, a connection, when a forthcoming class trip forces her to reveal her MIA father as a shaheed – a martyr of the war. She's not alone: School-yard tough boy Samir (Catic), previously a source of football bellicosity, follows her into a ruined alley and tells her his father was shaheed, too. Boy meets girl, postapocalypse. Esma, meanwhile, splits her time between working nights in a mob-run discotheque and days in a cavernous shoe factory. It's a grim life, made marginally less so by the attentions of a handsome-if-unwished-for suitor. On first meeting, they warily chat about the routine of searching for the remains of relatives in those never-ending grave sites. Zbanic makes the awful seem commonplace and vice versa, while adding ominous shadows to Esma's untold backstory. The war might be over, but fear and hope remain locked in a rapturous stranglehold amidst the rubble. AFS@Dobie