Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Welcome to Sarajevo

Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) looks at the Bosnian War (1992-1995) from the point of view of journalists who placed themselves in an up-close position to cover the bloodletting, and from the perspective of "ordinary" Bosniaks caught up in the mayhem. Coupled with Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique (2004), I found it to be conciousness-raising and valuable as a testament to recent historical events.

There's no doubt where Winterbottom's film stands on Serbian forces: they are the main aggressors here. Archival footage is interwoven with later filming in an effective way to incorprate some of the atrocities committed by Serbs. We also see a belated international response, with UN peacekeepers making some strides in better protecting civilians. Also, US 1992 Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton comes off better than President George H.W. Bush, and for good reason given their differing appraches to the conflict.

As in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, the Bosnian War is most accurately understood as a painful disaster and human tragedy. In Welcome to Sarajevo, because the war is ongoing, the tram lines are destroyed and there's little thought of rebuilding yet, which is contrasted in the post-war film Notre Musique, when the trams are running again and the Mostar Bridge is nearly restored.

Ensemble acting is solid in Welcome to Sarajevo. Cast includes a couple of American stars (Marisa Tomei and Woody Harrelson) who play it low-key. Also, there's Croatian actor Goran Višnjić, Emira Nusevic, Stephen Dillane, Harriet Fox, Juliet Aubrey, Emily Loyd, Igor Dzambazov and Davor Janjić. Soundtrack is good and includes a well-placed song from the Rolling Stones ("Waiting On a Friend"). 

Today's Rune: Gateway.      

1 comment:

jodi said...

Erik, for years the news reported daily on the 'gorillas fighting on the Gaza strip.' It's horrible how numb you can get to it all. I will check Woody in this one.