She’s known internationally as one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses; she’s won praise from governments and NGOs across the globe for her work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations; and she’s often reckoned to be the world’s most beautiful woman.
But Angelina Jolie has been going by a few other titles lately in the Balkan country of Serbia, where prominent media outlets have taken to describing her as an American propagandist and all-around "jerk."
The nationalistic furor stems from Jolie's recent debut as a screenwriter and director with “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” a fictionalized account of the Bosnian war.
Jolie and the film are now at the center of a furious debate in Serbia over the nation’s most sensitive political issue: the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and the degree of Serbia’s responsibility for ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslim and Croat civilians during the Bosnian war.
Key voices in the Serbian media have said that Jolie’s story of a doomed wartime romance between a Muslim woman and a Serbian army officer unfairly denigrates ethnic Serbs and spins the conflict from a distinctly anti-Serb perspective.
Film director Emir Kusturica recently told “Blic,” a Serbian daily, that Jolie’s new film is a work of “Hollywood propaganda.” His comments came as the Belgrade tabloid “Kurir” ran an interview with Bata Zivojinovic -- a veteran Yugoslav actor, former member of the Serbian parliament, and longtime Slobodan Milosevic ally -- under the blaring headline, "Angelina Is A Jerk."
A scene from "In the Land of Blood and Honey"
“Vecernje Novosti,” a newspaper partly owned by the Serbian government, refrained from criticizing Jolie personally but called her film a piece of “political agitprop” and noted that it had touched off “the largest political film scandal in the past few decades in the region.”
Serbian actor Dragan Bjelogrlic wrote in the paper that Jolie’s interpretation of events was “superficial” and claimed that he walked out of a screening of the movie after half an hour.
'Nobody Has Seen The Movie'
But now some Serbs are beginning to speak up in Jolie’s defense. Serbian film director Stevan Filipovic, whose 2010 film “Sisanje” sparked controversy at home over its portrayal of the Serbian right, says the attacks on Jolie and her film are consistent with a general tide of Serbian nationalism.
This is an old recipe. We have seen it used a million times by nationalists.
"This is an old recipe. We have seen it used a million times by nationalists," he told RFE/RL's Balkan Service. "The ridiculous thing is the fact that nobody has seen the movie, and they base their opinion on scenes from the trailer. Most of them never even saw the trailer, but they choose to declare it an anti-Serb movie, because that’s the way things go around here."
At least one prominent Bosnian Serb who did see the movie has given it a rave review.
Dragisa Andric was a prisoner in Sarajevo’s notorious Viktor Bubanj detention center during the war and is now an activist and spokesman for Serb war victims. He attended a special December screening in Sarajevo and told RFE/RL at the time that he was "deeply moved" by the film.
"In the Land of Blood and Honey" was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film but overlooked in this week's Academy Award nominations. It opens across the Balkans in February.
Written by Charles Dameron