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:: No Man's Land

Two soldiers, one Bosnian, one Serb, find themselves trapped in a trench in the no man’s land between the two opposing sides. If they try to leave, the enemy will shoot them, if they stay, it is only a matter of time before the third soldier, mistaken for dead, moves, and sets off the mine that will kill all three of them. This simple premise manages to create more tension and expose the follies of war more meaningful than a dozen Black Hawk Down’s. With a minimum of shooting or explosions, the tragedy and cruelty of war is allowed to play out.

The UN forces are exposed as helpless at best and completely uncaring at worst, capable only of manipulating the media. The worst of these is played brilliantly by Simon Callow (Shakespeare In Love). The media itself preys on the tragedy, asking meaningless questions of soldiers, like “Are you tired?” Katrin Cartlidge (Naked), somehow manages to imbue her ruthless reporter with a certain humanity. The two Bosnians and one Serb are portrayed as normal human beings caught up in something they cannot control. They argue over which side has started the war, unable to resolve it, and it doesn’t matter anyway. They know the same woman from before the war, but that doesn’t matter either. These men are never going to be friends. There is going to be no uplifting boding across cultural enmity.

All is not bleakness and carnage however. There are wonderful moments of humour as the UN forces try to communicate without knowing the language of the country they have come to protect. Their eventual arrival on the scene is greeted with “The Smurf’s are here!”

The director, Danis Tanovic, has made many prize-winning documentaries about the war in Bosnia and much of No Man’s Land feels like a documentary. And like the real life war, there are no happy endings for anyone. Tanovic also composed the effective music. It is a deserving winner of the 2002 Academy Award for best Foreign Film, putting the altogether too-cute Amelie back in its place.

Screening at Cinema Nova and the Brighton Bay Cinema