Tito held Yugoslavia together as one big happy family. Nonetheless, a late 1970’s episode of ethnic-religious
strife eventually causes unimaginable anguish for a Bosnian mother decades
later. Her story, inspired by, but not directly
based on a documented historical incident, vividly illustrates the painful
legacy of war in Arsen Ostojić’s Halima’s
screened last night as part of the narrative feature competition at the 2013 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.
lost her husband Salko and son Mirza during the war, Halima has been unable to
complete the grieving process while their remains are still unaccounted for. However, a breakthrough appears to have been
made. Her husband has been
recovered. Perhaps her son will be
too. The international team just needs
her DNA to match to her son, but she seems strangely reluctant to comply.
back to 1977, Safija is also in a very difficult position. She lives in a Muslim village and is pregnant
with the child of Slavomir, a Christian boy from the nearest Serb village. Her father does not take the news well,
beating her severely. After Slavomir
violently intervenes, he is quickly dispatched to Germany, for fear of reprisals. He will return though. Indeed, everyone’s lives will become knotted
together in Halima’s bitter tale.
the wartime issues Path addresses, it
is important to note Ostojić is in fact a Croatian filmmaker, working with a
Bosnian screenwriter, Fedja Isovic, and a Serbian co-producer. While most of the cast is either Croatian or
Serbian, nearly all had family ties to Bosnia-Herzegovina (including Srpska,
where the film has yet to screen, for obvious reasons). Yes, Isovic’s screenplay unambiguously
depicts Bosnian-Serb war crimes. Yet
ironically, during the first act, it is Serbian characters, most notably
Slavomir’s father, who exemplify tolerance.
Of course, war changes people and countries, as viewers see in dramatic
would be a mistake to dismiss Path as
just another film about the war and its aftermath. While it is intimate in its focus, the
substantial portion set in 1977 gives it a much wider historical scope. Nor does it rely on stock characters or simplistic
moralizing. At its moments of reckoning,
Path is mostly closely akin to
classical tragedy in the Sophoclean tradition.
more to the point, it also happens to be an excellent film, anchored by the
devastating power of Alma Prica’s honest and dignified lead performance. It is remarkable, award caliber work. Sarajevo native Miraj Grbić (recognizable to
some as Bogdan in Mission Impossible:
Ghost Protocol) also gives a finely nuanced performance as Halima’s
brother-in-law, a character who suggests it is possible to become more humane
with age, even after suffering the loss of loved ones.
Ostojić is best known for the black-and-white
neo-noir A Wonderful Night in Split (co-starring
Coolio), but with Path he drastically
cranks down the auterist impulse, subordinating style to character and narrative. As a result, Path is visually lean and spare, communicating directly to receptive
viewers. More commercial than film scouts
have heretofore recognized, Halima’s Path
has picked up numerous audience awards thus far. Strongly recommended, it was one of the clear
highlights of this year’s Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.
Labels: Arsen Ostojic, BHFF '13, Bosnian-Herzegovinian Cinema, Croatian Cinema