No Man’s Land

Review Date:
Director: Danis Tanovic
Writer: Danis Tanovic
Producers: Marc Baschet, Frederique Dumas, Cedomir Kolar
Branko Djuric as Chiki, Rene Bitorajac as Nino, Filip Sovagovic as Cera
A Bosnian and a Serb get stranded in the middle of a battleground between two sides of the Bosnian war. The men do not like each other, but attempt to stay civil throughout. When they discover another man in the trench with a mine stuck under him, things get a little more complicated, and even further more, when the UN peacekeepers and news media find out about their particular situation stuck in no man’s land.
An interesting foreign war movie featuring a nice balance between drama and humor, an eye-opening perspective on the Bosnian conflict and some beautiful, and I mean beautiful (I’m not kidding) surroundings. In fact, that’s one of the things that really separates this movie from all other “war” flicks. It ain’t grungy, it’s ain’t dark, it’s ain’t muddy and rainy…it’s actually set in a picturesque field, each side of which is covered by the respective factions of the war. A nice plot device is having one person from either side (one Bosnian and one Serb) fall into the middle trench together, at which point they must deal with each other on a one-on-one basis. It’s always funny (not funny “ha-ha”) how folks find it more difficult to kill one another during a war, when they actually get to know each other, and are standing face-to-face…only them alone. And seeing as the film is set during one very gorgeous sunny afternoon, the injection of many funny lines and lighter moments, fit in nicely as well. One of my personal favorite running jokes was the one featuring the French UN peacekeeper who kept approaching people with the same first question, “Do you speak French?”-to which the proverbial answer was always “No”…but they do speak English! Poor French…no respect, I tell ya! There were also some tense moments, including one specific de-mining scene, which was particularly unnerving.

The film also doesn’t hold back on its views on the politics of the war either. Granted, I would liked to have had an explanation about how the war got started and what really got everyone to the point of arms, but it wasn’t necessarily needed for the purposes of the film. In fact, one of its points was that neither man in this movie could admit to who really started the war, which is actually accentuated by a pretty funny scene in which the two try to convince each other that their side is the better side, etc… Aaaaaah, war sucks! But the film doesn’t stop the blame-game with the respective combatants either. It showcases the higher-ups at the UN peacekeeping stations as goofballs who care more about the media, playing chess with their sexy secretary, their public image and friggin’ bureaucracy, than saving lives. It also portrays the media in the typical blood-sucking manner, as in most other films. To be fair, it also shows how the media can manipulate the inside information that it’s got, to get things done…but the bottom line with most news organizations these days is still the “ratings”, and that always makes for more complications and less “true” coverage.

Overall, I have to admit that this film entertained me for its well-timed hour and a half, presented various interesting points of view, a handful of funny moments and even some really dramatic ones (yes, there is a little bit of graphic violence in here as well-it’s a war movie, after all). It’s also easy on the eyes, with its wonderful cinematography and sunny disposition, balancing off the grim nature of the battle-lines. Don’t expect SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but it’s no all-out laughfest either. In fact, the film’s grim ending is a good indication of what it was certainly trying to accomplish which was to say that there are no easy answers to any armed conflict and when you’re dealing with various other external elements, God knows that the solution only gets that much more complex. A sobering conclusion to a solid film which doesn’t require previous knowledge about the war or its people, to be appreciated.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian