Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
BHFF ’14: A Stranger
cineastes, the notion of divided cities conjures images of The Third Man’s occupied Vienna. In contrast, there is nothing
particularly mysterious about the effective religious-ethnic cleaving of
Mostar. The bridge has been rebuilt but the distrust lingers between Muslim
Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Unfortunately, Slavko is not the sort of man to
personally span that gap in Bobo Jelčić’s A
closing selection of this year’s Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New
has surely seen plenty of funerals by now, yet the death of his Muslim friend Đulaga
still represents quite a dilemma. Although they had not seen each other since
the troubles began, he knows he should pay his last respects. However, if he is
seen attending the Muslim service, there could be very real repercussions in
the neighborhood and perhaps even with the local bosses. On the other hand, if
he does not go, he will completely lose the respect of his wife Milena, as well
as his remaining shreds of self-worth.
Jelčić’s character-types have deep resonance with the local audience, but they
will not be so difficult for Americans to relate with. Frankly, Slavko is not a
bad man. He is simply a small man. This often leads to minor everyday tragedies
whenever he might find himself tested.
a way, Slavko demonstrates how divided cities do not just cause divided
peoples, but also fractured people. He is the “Stranger,” a title that evokes
Camus and Graham Greene more than a painfully self-conscious, late middle-aged protagonist.
At the very least, he is prone to profoundly darker Walter Mitty flights of
fantasy. Yet, we start to wonder how firm his grasp truly is when his grim
reveries start to jarringly intrude upon the on-screen narrative.
Diklić, a Croatian born veteran of cinema across the Balkans, is a nervy screen
presence, completely pulling viewers into his neurotic inner turmoil. He makes
it dashed tricky to pass judgment on Slavko (lest we be judged under similar
circumstances), even though Milena and Jelčić clearly have no problem doing so.
In fact, Nada Đurevska undercuts him rather powerfully as the increasingly
disappointed Milena. At times, her body language is quite the scathing
question, A Stranger represents art
cinema at its least compromising, yet its themes still have resonance,
particularly for those with roots in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or so we should hope.
As the closing feature, it played to an impressively packed house, with
overflow forced onto folding chairs in the aisles.
Regardless, it is nice to see the festival
slowly but steadily grow year-by-year. Always a major event for the expat
community, its general interest film following is also starting to build. While
the themes are often heavy, patrons will find the festival itself to be
friendlier and more relaxed than the other New York film happening that typically
precedes it. Highly recommended as a New York film tradition, the eleventh
annual Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival came to a close last night, but
watch their social media for news on next year’s edition.
Labels: BHFF '14, Bosnian-Herzegovinian Cinema