Review: Grbavica – Sarajevo, My Love (2006)

Grbavica – Sarajevo, My Love (2006)

Directed by: Jasmila Zbanic | 90 minutes | drama | Actors: Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic, Leon Lucev, Kenan Catic, Jasna Beri, Dejan Acimovic, Bogdan Diklic, Emir Hadzihafisbegovic, Ermin Bravo, Semka Sokolovic-Bertok, Maike Höhne, Jasna Zalica, Nada Djurevska, Emina Muftic, Dunja Pasic

The feature film debut ‘Grbavica’ by Jasmila Zbanic (31) from Bosnia-Herzegovina not only won the Golden Bear in Berlin, but was also awarded the Ecumenical Prize and the Peace Film Prize. With her film she hopes to provide catharsis and give a voice to the female victims of Serbian war criminals.

She herself lives near Grbavica, a suburb of Sarajevo that was besieged by the Serbian-Montenegrin army during the war. The Serbs systematically tortured the Bosnian population. Today it is a normal neighborhood where people live, work and shop, people like Esma and Sara. Esma (Mirjana Karanovic) lives with her twelve-year-old daughter Sara (Luna Mijovic) in Grbavica and tries to make ends meet. Life in post-war Sarajevo is disrupted and many people struggle to keep their heads above water. Unemployment is high and the mafia holds sway. Esma decides to work as a waitress in a nightclub. This has repercussions on her relationship with Sara who then finds a good friend in her classmate Samir (Kenan Catic). His father also died and was a ‘shaheed’, a holy martyr who died in the fight against the Serbs. They are both looking forward to the upcoming school trip that will be free for children of shaheeds. When one day Esma comes to pay for the school trip with collected money and runs into her daughter in the school building, it is time for the truth.

Zbanic manages to build up an enormous field of tension by capturing everyday life and penetrating close-ups. The world keeps spinning, also in Sarajevo, but something is going on. One still has to deal with a past. At all kinds of ‘normal’ moments it rears its head again. And that is portrayed in a painfully beautiful way, now and then supported by sensitive folk songs or Serbian turbo-folk. Yet, despite the sadness, this little drama has a positive angle. Obviously, Zbanic is primarily telling a story about love, a mother’s unconditional love for her child. Only this love is tainted with despair, disgust and trauma. Both are victims but not completely innocent. They struggle with the truth that affects their mood and environment. But they are also strong and each shape their future in their own way.

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