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Bos/Hrv/Srp 21 Feb 12

In the Land of Blood, When does the Honey Come!

Dusica L. Ikic Cook

After watching “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, I am left with two questions: “Why did I have to be reminded?” and “Why not a live action short film instead?”

After the premiere in Sarajevo (on February 14), I read comments of my friends on the Facebook, saying that the movie was painfully true in presenting the war. I read that they were emotional and deeply shaken by it. A few “dared” say less complementing opinion of the film.

After the disappointment of not being able to get the tickets for the first Tuzla’s projection of the much awaited Angelina Jolie’s directing debut, I waited to read what my FB friends thought of the film. Surprisingly, the comments were scarce. I saw only two or three, and they were all very different.

We got the tickets for the third night of projections. I did my homework; along with the mental preparation to reliving the horrors of the war, there were tissues and a bottle of water in my purse.

We sat down and shivered in anticipation of what was it we were going to experience. For some reason, really unknown to me, I shed a tear at the very start, when only some sentences went on a black (I think) background. I keep wondering, (now more than four hours later), what was it that triggered that silent sob and I can’t even remember what the sentences were, but think I acted emotionally to the start itself. The long awaited start.

Having lived throughout the war in Tuzla (which was under far less fire), I must say that it was hard for me to even imagine the horrors the people went through in Sarajevo. Seeing it in this film, hearing from my Sarajevo friends that it was real, made me realise that I had no idea what was going on there during the war and how so much more difficult and tragic it was than we can picture in our heads.

As the film went on, the images showing the words I translated during the war, taking statements from victims, started moving before my eyes. First, they were just some instant, blurred visions, but now, after the first impressions have sunk in, they are as vivid as ever.

Now they all echo in my head, bringing back what I thought I have successfully cooped up in the darkest cell of my brain.

It seems like it was just yesterday that a woman with two daughters, age six and one, sat across from me in an office. All three of them were in the Karakaj camp (Eastern Bosnia), and I was translating her statement given to the UNHCR in 1993, after she was released.

I though I managed to forget her sad eyes and emptiness coming out of them. I thought I have successfully misplaced the memory of her 6-year-old with the “4C” carved into her forehead and her younger, a baby, with the same symbol carved on her back. Carved by knife!

I truly believed I forgot of her being raped several times a day, and her older daughter sharing the same destiny. A six-year-old – raped!

No, I didn’t forget; not her, not her daughters and not so many others I spoke with during that horrible war. It all came back. The dark cell was unlocked when faced with the images on the screen.

Unfortunately, the stories of the war can not be easily told and everything is so much different when shown through the eyes of a person who did not live through it. I felt my heart splitting when I realised what happened to the baby in the movie, I broke my plastic water bottle squeezing it harder with every kick the woman got, I stopped breathing to the sounds of the bullet and the lifeless body sliding down the wall, and I was hurt.

The film itself is not an excellent piece of work, I will agree with many who already said that. The action (if I try to ignore the fact that I find the story very unrealistic) is so slow, that I wished to press the “fast forward” button, but sadly realised I didn’t have the remote.

Trying to be reasonable and understanding that the film was made for the outside audience, I readily ignored a nowadays label on the beer and a recent commercial showing during the war, as well as castles on the hills of Sarajevo and the Sarajevo Cathedral in the middle of a park (or something).

But, the action; oh dear! She could have easily cut out 80% of the scenes and would probably end up with an excellent film.

Somehow (and I can not get away from this impression) the movie seemed to be a combination of the Schindler’s List, the Pianist, the Remake and the No Man’s Land, but with a lame story.

They (or she) failed to breathe in it the soul of the Balkans. 

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Dusica Ikic Cook

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