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In the Land of Blood and Honey
by Becky Tan

Until the end of World War II, Yugoslavia’s six republics or states were united under the government of Josip Tito. After his death in 1980 the various ethnic groups, e.g., Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, declared independence and divided Yugoslavia into smaller individual countries (as it is today). This did not happen peacefully as radical leaders sought to assume power. This time in history is worth our intensive attention and study. The film by Angelina Jolie portrays the struggle, beginning 1992 between Serbia and Bosnia, an especially violent era during which 100,000 people died, two million fled, and probably 50,000 women were raped. Bosnian Serbs massacred 7000 Muslims in Srebrenica – a genocide which must be remembered. That the Serbs were Christian and the Bosnians Muslims, makes it not only an ethnic war, but a religious one. Then, at the height of the war NATO troops move in to “restore the peace.”

Angelina Jolie wrote the script and directed this film in an effort to bring the facts to the general public, so that the atrocities do not vanish unforgotten. Five stars go to her for her admirable effort, much in keeping with her similar activities such as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, financial aid to charitable organizations or adopting orphans. She walked the red carpet of the 62nd Berlinale 2012 where the film showed – good publicity for the film festival. For this she should be praised. As far as In the Land of Honey goes, it is also admirable in that it gave local citizens publicity which they might never have had; it is in the local language (with subtitles), however it was actually shot for the most part in Budapest, Hungary.

Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) a Muslim Bosnian falls in love with Danijel (Goran Kostic) a Christian Serb. Before the civil war, such inter-cultural relationships and even marriages caused few problems. In the 1990s, of course, this is as problematic (and as old) as Romeo and Juliet with similar unfortunate results. But before we get to the sad finale, we witness rape, torture, drunkenness, betrayal, and revenge, glossed over by this idealistic love story between Ajla and Danijel. Ajla loves him in spite of the fact that his people killed her sister and small baby, in spite of the fact, that in order to be saved, she must live imprisoned in one room where she can paint to her heart’s content and serve Danijel’s needs at night. Danijel, who can move freely, still is not free, in that his father is a general in the Serbian army and will never condone any relationship with the enemy. Danijel must stand as role model and strong man before the soldiers he leads, so that Ajla must appear to be his prisoner and sex slave.

Although the photography is good, the film is too long and repetitious and seems to live off violence without actually saying anything. Taken at face value, without reference to the famous director or the horrendous topic, it is a middling B-movie. A similar, but considerably better movie, which never made it beyond DVD in Germany, is Whistleblower about the problems caused when NATO troops arrive and contribute to the mess.   Or see the Norwegian film Srebrenica Izdani grad (A Town Betrayed) on YouTube, as well as similar TV documentaries, e.g., from the BBC, also on YouTube. Or see the lovely film Belgrade Radio Taxi about life after the war.