Films from the Balkans have been winning awards at international festivals for years. They are hardly known here. They offer valuable insights into the history of the region.
Around 20 years ago, a British journalist reported in the Guardian on the Bosnian anti-war satire “No Man’s Land” by Danis Tanović, which had just won an Oscar. He wondered why more films were not being made about the Balkan Wars, given the level of violence and the historical significance of the events of the 1990s.
Well, things are very different now. Because on August 5th he comes Feature film “Quo Vadis, Aida?” by Jasmila Žbanić about the genocide in Srebrenica on Swiss canvases. And since the article in the Guardian in 2002, many other filmmakers from the region have taken up topics that concern society even after the official end of the wars.
It is a demanding subject, but it is worth immersing yourself in if you want to understand the recent history of the Balkans a little better.
Here are ten tips ordered by the time they play – vor, during and after den Wars in the former Yugoslavia. There are dramas, thrillers and also internationally award-winning satires, partly based on the directors’ own experiences as survivors.
“Cold November” (“Nëntor i Ftohtë”)
Drama, Kosovo, 2018, 94 min. Director: Ismet Sijarina.
Pristina, Kosovo, 1992. Fadil’s boss is replaced by a Serb. His Albanian work colleagues quit in protest. Political tensions are rising around him, and his family is also protesting against the Serbian regime. But the archivist has to feed his wife, children and his dependent father. An authentic glimpse into difficult pre-war months that offers more than one S.black and white look.
In the cinema on 8/20/2021, Riffraff, Zurich. At the 26.9.2021 in the Rex cinema in Bern. Both as part of the “Kino Kosova” film festival.
“No Man’s Land”
Tragic Comedy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2001, 98 min. Director: Danis Tanović.
A Bosniak and a Serb Čiki and Nino, stuck in a trench in 1993 in the no man’s land between the fronts fixed. The situation becomes more complicated when they meet a third man lying on a mine. Everyone wants to survive, but neither the Serbian nor the Bosniak side feels responsible for the men – and the UN is overwhelmed with the situation. An Oscar-winning antikriegssatire.
on Amazon Prime. DVD at Orell Füssli for 19.90 Fr.
«Fuse» («Gori Vatra»)
Tragic comedy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2003, 105 min. Director: Pjer Žalica.
The one riddled with corruption and illegal activity Tešanj is in an uproar. Two years after the end of the war, US President Bill Clinton is expected to die Bosnian Visit small town. You want to make a good impression in front of the world. Even if that means having to pretend that Serbs and Bosniaks are friends again. A grotesquely melancholy drama about all of them Nachkriegsdyfunctionalities. 2003 was the film in Locarno awarded the Silver Leopard.
In the original language without subtitles free on Youtube. Otherwise on Amazon Prime. DVD at Orell Füssli for 19.90 Fr.
“The Load” (“Teret”)
Thriller, Serbia / France / Croatia / Iran / Qatar, 2018, 98 min. Director: Ognjen Glavonić.
1999, in the middle of the NATO bombing, the Serb Vlada should simply drive from Kosovo to Belgrade without stopping. What the truck has loaded, whe doesn’t know. 2001 shot Ognjen Glavonić the documentary «Depth Two» about mass graves found in the suburbs of Belgrade. «The Load» ties in with it as a feature film. Atmospherically strong, with many historical references, without assigning blame. To accompany Vlada, is enough to ask yourself the crucial questions.
“Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams”
Drama, Bosnia-Herzegovina / Croatia / Austria / Germany, 2006, 90 min. Director: Jasmila Žbanić.
The Bosniak Esma and her 12jold daughter Sara live in the Grbavica district. Sara believes her father died in the Bosnian war. The children of the killed fighters are allowed on a school trip free of charge. Nevertheless, the single parent Esma takes an additional job to finance the trip. When Sara learns that her father did not die in the war and that her mother was raped at the time, the relationship between the two is severely tested. Esma was one of Mirjana Karanović’s most important film roles. 2006 won «Grbavica» at the Berlinale the Golden Bear. The later directorial debut of Mirjana Karanović is presented below.
Free in the original language Youtube. In Zurich in various Pestalozzi Libraries available. DVD at Orell Füssli for 22.90 Fr.
Drama / Thriller, Kosovo / Albania, 2019, 98 min. Director: Antoneta Kastrati.
Ten Years after the war in Kosovo Lume is supposed to get pregnant. She tries to defend herself against the pressure of the family, also against the crude methods of a healer, to whom she is sent. Because there’s a reason why Lume not having a child can – or want to. The nightmares that haunt her at night are based on those that director Antoneta Kastrati still has today. During Kosovokriegs 1999n killed her mother and one of her sisters. Together with her sister and camerawoman Sevdije Kastrati, she tells the story in «Zana» an autobiographically inspired story of loss – sensitive, but also very brutal. And the two also direct their gaze to a society shaped by patriarchal norms that continues to this day veverything is silent.
on Amazon Prime. Or in the cinema: am 22.8.2021, Riffraff, Zurich, as part of the film festival «Kino Kosova».
“On the Road” (“Na putu”)
Drama, Bosnia-Herzegovina / Germany / Austria / Croatia, 2010, 100 min. Director: Jasmila Žbanić.
Luna and Amar live as a happy couple in Sarajevo. Then Amar loses his job at the airport. With his new job in a conservative Muslim community, he gives up drinking, but changes in other ways too. Luna doesn’t know if she can handle it, and wrestles, like Amar, at the same time with the scars of the soul,left by the war. The theme song for the film comes from one of the most famous bands from the Balkans: Dubioza Kolektiv – also aAlways a soundtrack off the screen against nationalism.
on Filmingo. DVD at Orell Füssli for 24.90 Fr.
“A Good Wife” (“Dobra žena”)
Drama, Serbia / Bosnia-Herzegovina / Croatia, 2016, 94 min. Director: Mirjana Karanović.
«A. Good W.ife» is Mirjana Karanović’s debut as a director and screenwriter, in which she also plays the leading role – Milena. Milena is a mother, a housewife, who takes care of her apparently happy family. One day she finds a videotape. To see on tape: iyour man. As a war criminal. A sometimes oppressively quiet, sometimes eruptive drama. Mirjana Karanović may already be known to the Swiss audience. In Andrea Štaka’s film «Miss» In 2006 she played the canteen operator Ruža from the former Yugoslavia.
“Men Don’t Cry” (“Muškarci ne plaču”)
Drama, Bosnia-Herzegovina / Slowenien/Croatia/Germany, 2017, 98 min. Director: Alen Drljević.
In his first feature film, Alen Drljević Croatian, Serbian and Bosniak men come together in a remote mountain hotel in Bosnia to face their trauma. Like the director himself, they fought in the Bosnian war. on Drljević Participating in a therapeutic workshop with war veterans had a cathartic effect. How are its protagonists doing?
This film is currently unavailable. Updates here as soon as more is known.
Of course, the Balkan cinema (still) has more to offer than films that deal with the wars. But that would be a topic for another list.
Which films from the Balkans have impressed you? Share it in the comments.
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