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'Outsider' Jolie Puts Bosnia's War Story On World Stage

Angelina Jolie Discusses Film On Bosnian Wari
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February 16, 2012
RFE/RL Balkan Service Director Gordana Knezevic spoke with actress Angelina Jolie in Sarajevo about her directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey." The film, a drama set during Bosnia's war of the 1990s, premiered in the Bosnian capital on February 14.

RFE/RL Balkan Service Director Gordana Knezevic spoke with Angelina Jolie in Sarajevo about her directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey."

Some 5,000 Sarajevans turned out on February 14 to watch Angelina Jolie's new film, "In the Land of Blood and Honey." Appropriately, the film's screening took place at a sports complex now surrounded by the graves of people who died in the Bosnian war.

Jolie, her cast, and film crew received a standing ovation from the audience. Afterward, with tears in her eyes, the first-time director spoke a few words to the audience in Bosnian. Making the film was a life-shaping experience, she said.

The next day, Jolie spoke to RFE/RL's Balkan Service in an interview at the city's iconic Holiday Inn hotel, which was heavily shelled by Serbs during the 1992-95 war. She said she felt an enormous responsibility making the film.

"I worked so hard to try to make what I thought was a good film but also a film that I know was going to be so hard for people watching here, because it is their history and it's such a painful time in their history," Jolie said.

"And, of course, to do an artistic interpretation of something, of somebody's life, you feel you can never do somebody enough justice, so you do your best but you hope that you do good and you hope you do enough and you hope you do it right. I was terrified."

Set against the backdrop of the 1990s Bosnian war, "In the Land of Blood and Honey" is woven around a love story between Danijel, the soldier son of a Serbian general, and Bosnian artist Ajla, whose earlier peacetime romance takes on destructive and ambiguously moral dimensions in wartime.

Ajla ends up in a detention camp where all the women are systematically raped. The camp is commanded by Danijel.

'A Shameful Time'

Jolie, who was a teenager during the Bosnian war, said the world's inaction during the horrors of that conflict is a shameful time in history.

"As I've grown up and gone to many parts of the world, this was one that I felt nobody had spoken enough about," Jolie said. "This was such an important time for our world history, what happened here, the fact that the international community turned its back and abandoned these people for so long is such a crime. It's something we should all be ashamed of and learn from and that we must show respect and remember."

WATCH: Jolie, her cast, and crew receive a standing ovation at the regional premiere of the film in Sarajevo on February 14.
Sarajevo Premiere Of "In The Land Of Blood And Honey"i
February 14, 2012
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie was in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, for the regional premiere of her directorial debut, a wartime love story that has stirred controversy in the Balkans.
Despite her status as an A-list Hollywood star, Jolie spends a great deal of her time promoting humanitarian causes as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

She said that as she began her research for the film, she fell in love with the area and was deeply inspired by the stories of survivors of the war. She met with a lot of people, she said, and "just listened."

'Closure' For Bosnians?

Gordana Knezevic, the director of RFE/RL's Balkan Service, was in the audience for the regional premiere of Jolie’s film. Surrounding her in the audience were many women who had suffered endless sexual assaults in camps such as the one depicted in the film.

"I got the impression that this movie can provide a closure for their pain and can [bring] an end to the most painful part of their life," she said. "I believe that movies actually can have some healing power."

BBC correspondent Alan Little covered the Bosnian war extensively, and the book, "The Death of Yugoslavia," which he co-authored with Laura Silber, is the story of that experience. After the film's screening in Sarajevo, he commented that Jolie, an outsider, had done what no one before her had managed to do: She launched Bosnia's story onto the world stage.

"It reminded me of something during the war when I was here," Little said. "The need for people here in the siege and elsewhere in Bosnia to have the world know about their suffering, to have the world know about their story. It was a very visceral need. People cared about it very much.

"And she has given a kind of acknowledgement from the outside world that their story is understood and that there is not a massive indifference in the universe. It's connected the people who lived through and survived the Bosnian war to the world, in a way. It was a very special thing for me to witness."

Gordana Knezevic and Irena Chalupa contributed to this story
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Comment Sorting
by: max nerro from: los angeles
February 16, 2012 06:21
It is really sad to see that even someone who was known for her humanitarian work is now trying to capitalise on a one sided story of Bosnian war. This cliche of Serbs beeing the ONLY bad guys in the world is really old and not interesting anymore. Honestly I'm surprised that she didn't use any "nuclear bomb material" and a super vilain in the movie, because then we might say it's a pulp movie and let it pass. Mrs. Jolie REALLY needs to get more, WAY MORE, RESEARCH for her next movie, and that reasearch should be about the things that REALLY MATTER for the story. These cheap one sided war love stories don't even fly in US let alone in Europe.
In Response

by: Fact Parcel
February 18, 2012 20:33
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) has since 2004 documented human losses..
The Research and Documentation Centre
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - A Cry from the Grave: Srebrenica After Ten Years
The Serbian nationalism inspirational
Noel Malcolm. Bosnia: A Short History.
The Bosnian Muslims : denial of a nation / Francine Friedman
The peopling of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome haplogroups in the three main ethnic groups.
Y chromosomal heritage of Croatian population and its island isolates.
High levels of Paleolithic Y-chromosome lineages characterize Serbia
Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree 2006
The genetic legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in extant Europeans
Phylogeography of Y-chromosome haplogroup I reveals distinct domains of prehistoric gene flow in europe.
High-Resolution Phylogenetic Analysis of Southeastern Europe Trace Major Episodes of Paternal Gene Flow Among
Slavic Populations
Genes mirror geography within Europe
Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe
The Archaeogenetics of Europe
In Response

by: Mark
February 21, 2012 23:22
Didn't take long for the ad-hominen attacks to come out.

Jolie's film is well -researched. The genocidal project that was Greater Serbia is well documented in cases that have been tested at the ICTY and ICJ e.g. the prosecution of Dusko Tadic and Pavle Strugar.

The irony here is that after Serbian dijaspora and government organisations devoted great resources over decades to blackening the name of their neighbours as genocidal, the actions of Serbs in the Yugolsav wars left the Serbian nation with the stigma of being genocidal.

Indeed the Serbian state was found to be in breach of the genocide convention in its material support for the Bosnian Serbs and failing to prevent genocide - the only state to have been convicted under the genocide convention.
In Response

by: vn from: Belgrade
February 22, 2012 18:54
To: Mark

That "Jolie's film is well-researched" is anything but understatement for a serious research that should have taken place. People making and funding these kinds of movies with the aim of highlighting and instilling hate and reciprocities, propagating aggression, should have their heads examined - and they are coming from the top of the UN establishment. Generally speaking, movie directors need to have a good educational background and should be well familiar with at least their own culture. Jolie's movie is not a serious work of art, to the contrary, it's the cheapest and lowest form of propaganda (in this case the anti-Serbian one).

The UN, meaning your ICTY and ICY, should tell us what happened to the Dutch in Srebrenica, who were under the UN, and what the UN sick staff (half-British, Hungarian, Albanian, ...) were doing in Belgrade and Sarajevo at the time. They were killing time by making photocopies, learning how to go to the bank and take salaries ... Some humanitarians.

The movie should have been titled "In the Land of Blood and Money" or "In the Land of Bloody Money". Despite all the great expectations, it's a failure. A great sample of how-not-to-make-a-movie-ever.

by: rick
February 16, 2012 14:56
pretentious woman

as the first work as director
she could do something of simpler

by: Owen from: London
February 17, 2012 09:24
Max Nerro's sour comments would be simply be sad if they weren't obviously part of the Serb/ian campaign of propaganda and self-excuse that has for twenty years succeeded in letting those responsible for the use of mass rape as a means of terrorising a civilian population off the hook.

Only now is Oliver Krsmanovic being prosecuted for rape at Vilina Vlas. Through its own inadequacies the ICTY failed to prosecute Milan Lukic, the arch exponent of rape as a weapon. Branimir Savovic and Risto Perisic, the Visegrad civil and police authorities who supervised Lukic's activities, are supposedly living out a tranquil retirement in Serbia.

Personally I wonder whether Jolie did the right thing in personalising the story rather than examining the collective experience. By not engaging more productively with Bakira Hasecic and others she may have missed the opportunity to deal with the crucial political dimension of the issue.

Nevertheless she has made a film which has gone to the heart of Bosnians' unresolved experience of the war. In the absence of the adequate pursuit of justice Jolie has at least provided the people who were the subject of her project with an opportunity for catharsis and she has done so in a way which has earned the respect of many of them.

She also deserves respect above all for her willingness to stand up to the apologists who once again have tried to evade responsibility for the crimes done in their name by demanding "50/50 balance" in the film. Jolie's unhesitating affirmation of the basic fact that the crimes of the Bosnian war were overwhelmingly targeted at Bosniak civilians will hopefully have the wider impact that her courage and determination deserve.

by: Kathryn from: Calif
February 22, 2012 15:14
I am a Serbian American and I did have relatives in Yugoslavia. No More....gone in a war brought on by outsiders who wanted a free market,Germany told Croatia to be independent. Many outsiders caused this ugly war that took many lives .Before this the peoples of Yugo got a long fine. Then what....the outsiders wanted free market and that is why we have so many dead and property destroyed. Sad. The people in this war start thinking and do not let this happen again. As for the movie maker she just wanted to make more money she has no feelings for the people who paid a terrible price. God Bless the victims.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 22, 2012 16:49
A very good point, Kathryn! And right now it looks like the same outside forces - the IMF and Germany - that destroyed YU are getting done with destroying the neighbouring Greece. What comes next for this country is (a) a default, (b) an internal political and economic turmoil and (c) probably a military ocupation by other NATO countries and (d) further shameless plundering of the Greek property by the country's European "partners".

by: Hobart Czmonkiewitz from: Los Angeles
February 29, 2012 03:38
This movie is every bit pretentious and exploitative, just as it's director's leg was at the Oscars ceremony. Just shows you what a poser she is. This reminds me of Hillary Clinton's run for the President of the USA - a lot of talking about important things without really understanding what the things are all about. In other words - politics as usual. Talking about the balance - this film is so one sided that it drowns in its own liberal propaganda, it's barely watchable. Use those Serbs as ultimate Hollywood villains for one more time - what else is new. Jolie chooses not to remember about raped and killed Serbian women by the Muslim mujaheddins, during that same war. No one is denying Serbs did the crimes here, but the truth is that the Muslims raped and killed Serbian women, too. They burned almost all of the Serbian villages surrounding the territory of Srebrenica, in the months preceding the final revenge. So in the end, they got what they were asking for. Mrs. Jolie is obviously in denial about having any balance here, but let the audience be the judge. In the US this just wouldn't fly in the theaters, despite all the political hoopla . A bad and naive student movie with a good budget. It's like Frankenstein - a lot of effort and money to make a dead thing alive. Ultimately it just doesn't work.

by: Milos from: Canada
March 13, 2012 22:53
People lets get one thing clear, Angelina Jolie supported the "humanitarian actions" in Libya, Iraq, Syria, and thousands have died...her Holywood status makes her a "trendy leftist" that millions love to follow. In the case of this movie she did not do any research..her numbers are fictitious, and completely made up...she probably only relied on western sources and clouded the information at the same time. The movie is horrible and makes it seem as if Serbs are genocidal monsters while completely ignoring the violence brought against them in the war. Heres a perfect way to sum up Jolie:

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