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For directorial debut, Angelina Jolie revisits Bosnian War

AP photo

AP photo

“I’m nervous,” Angelina Jolie said in a small voice. “I’ve never been nervous about a film.”

This film is different.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey,” a searing fictional account of life during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, is Jolie’s directorial debut. It is a hard movie to watch.

“It should be, because war is horrible,” Jolie told us during a recent phone interview. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award in the foreign language category; “A Separation,” about Iran, won in that category.

Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt struck a glamorous pose on the Golden Globes red carpet but didn’t stick around long after the event ended. She told Hollywood Life they aimed to get home early to their kids.

For our interview and no doubt others she has conducted promoting “Blood and Honey,” personal questions were off-limits.

“It’s been really nice” not to be asked about the subjects that would delight a tabloid-magazine audience, Jolie said. “At the end of the day we do have a responsibility to educate ourselves. I just hope people feel and want to learn. I really care about this part of the world and these people. Hopefully, artistically I won’t disappoint them.”

FilmIn-The-Land-Of-Blood_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85The film’s two main characters are Danijel (Goran Kostić), a Bosnian Serb police officer, and Ajla (Zana Marjanović), a Bosnian Muslim artist, shown at left in this movie still. Before the conflict erupts they’re depicted as a casually dating couple who enjoy music and dancing. After brutal ethnic cleansing sweeps through Sarajevo, they meet again. This time Danijel is commanding a camp where Ajla and dozens of other women are held captive and raped regularly by soldiers.

“I was born in Sarajevo and was only 8 years old during the war,” Marjanović said in a statement released by the studio. “My father chose to stay in Sarajevo. The war came as a huge surprise, and no one thought the war would last as long as it did.”

Work on the movie began with one of the most violent scenes, in which women who have been seized at gunpoint from their homes have been transported to a prisoner camp.

“The first day we did the scene where the men pull the women off the bus and the rape scene,” Jolie said. “It was really hard. I didn’t know if that morning was going to be volatile. I didn’t know if people were going to fight.”

Instead, action in between takes was inspiring. The actors who played soldiers picked up the actresses who played their captives, comforting them and brushing snow off their clothes.

11760965-film-in-the-land-of-blood-and-honey1“It was really beautiful,” Jolie said.

An Academy Award winner and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who balances an acting career and parenthood with global humanitarian work, Jolie stayed behind the camera for this project. The “Blood and Honey” cast members are actors from the region, and their memories of life during the struggle informed the movie.

“Cast members were showing pictures from before the war. One cast member showed me where she used to ski; then it became a snipers’ ridge,” Jolie said. “All the actors remembered that was their last happy moment.”

War in the former Yugoslavia followed the collapse of Communism and raged from 1992 to 1995, when NATO intervention finally stopped the fighting. The conflict claimed more than 100,000 and displaced more than 2 million people.

Jolie uses a number of expository scenes to refresh viewers’ memories about the Bosnian War. A conversation between Danijel and his father, Gen. Nebojsa Vukojevich (Rade Šerbedžija), feels like a history lesson as the older man recounts the centuries of strife that have plagued the region. Later, when Vukojevich encounters Ajla, he shares the story of his mother’s own murder at the hands of Muslim forces a generation ago.

“Instead of pointing fingers, we have to understand what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Jolie said. “I tried to write something I thought was balanced and didn’t try to lay judgment. It’s not a documentary. It’s not a political statement. It’s a dramatic film that deals with human beings.”

It’s not yet clear when the movie will be screened in Atlanta. It depicts graphic violence and the physical and emotional scars left by war, but it is not entirely bleak. The redemptive power of creative expression emerges as a theme among the rubble.

“It is symbolic that Alya was an artist. Art to these people is part of their lifelife,” Jolie said. “The message is we’re still creating, we’re still human.”

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

14 comments Add your comment

Hollywood - anything for a buck no matter who it hurts

January 17th, 2012
5:50 pm

“The first day we did the scene where the men pull the women off the bus and the rape scene,” Jolie said. “It was really hard. I didn’t know if that morning was going to be volatile. I didn’t know if people were going to fight.”

Instead, action in between takes was inspiring. The actors who played soldiers picked up the actresses who played their captives, comforting them and brushing snow off their clothes.

“It was really beautiful,” Jolie said.

Of course, Jolie doesn’t deal with the real world of women batterers….boys who start off pulling pig tails who escalate to cussing out girls, slapping girls, to hitting girls, to putting out cigarettes on girls, to raping and sodomizing girls….and finally serial rapists. Show it in a movie….it’s art! Only problem is that some boys will see this and think that is the way to treat girls. Those boys who are on the cusp of moving from hitting to raping….this might just send them over the edge. I wouldn’t go see this movie if the AJC or Jolie bought me the ticket…..

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My Two Cents

January 17th, 2012
6:42 pm

I am not interested in seeing this movie.

Greg

January 17th, 2012
6:44 pm

So don’t see it. You might learn something.

DixieDarling

January 17th, 2012
6:55 pm

Why censor this particular movie and not other movies that also show rape and violence? Ms. Jolie was sharing real-life events in a war not too long ago that occured — just as movies depict the Nazis and their horror — just as other movies have shown rape and the violence that occurs here in the US as well as in other parts of the world for the past many centuries. We cannot close our eyes and ears and sweep violence committed to women and children under the rugs but we must recognize it exists now as well as in the past whether war was an excuse or not. War serves to break down boundaries of human decency and respect. Blame the war-mongers — not the story tellers. Yes, I will view this movie and pray for the victims — as you should too! Where is your compassion?

Jennifer Brett

January 17th, 2012
6:57 pm

I promise, it does not in any way glamorize violence. It is not an easy movie to watch.

Jennifer

Alexandra

January 17th, 2012
10:39 pm

Thank you for following your heart and vision. You have done more for the Yugoslavian people than you know. I heard you on Anderson…I’m looking forward to seeing the film.

Lera Michigan

January 18th, 2012
12:52 am

Hi everyone!!! I am Bosnian and enjoy to be one.I read comments and as usual we all have different opinion wich is absolutely normal.I am very excited about the movie and i can’t wait to see it.I understand the movie is based on true events they took place during war in my country wich i was there during the war.I am very proud of Angeline Jolie that she actually had curage to make the movie about such a difficult matter .The point of my comment is all world need to see what happens during war and how people suffer on the most gruesome way.Soldiers who did such a things and made war even worse and take advantage of situation to satisfy their sick minds need to be punished individually as war criminals.I don’t hate serbs as people i just hate individuals who committed crimes like that even in that war i lost my husband friends family members but still i don’t hate.All my life changed and course what i wanted and expected from life.Im still trying to figure it out how to swim in this new water and stay on the surface.I hope this movie will bring some kinda awareness of protecting civilians and innocent people during wars and hope war will never happen again not only in Bosnia ,all over the world.

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Tina-Chicago

January 18th, 2012
2:51 pm

Just came back from watching In the Land of Blood and Honey.. whom Angelina Jolie “directed”…it was disgusting, humiliating, and she put all Bosnian woman to shame. This movie needs to be taken out Immediatly. I don’t understand how she thought the work that she supposdly “directed” was good, she made bosnian woman look bad and whats most important she STOLE the whole story line from author James J. Braddock. I am pissed off and hurt. I cant even find the words to describe how I am feeling. Smh.. [expletives deleted]

Jennifer Brett

January 18th, 2012
4:47 pm

Tina-Chicago: I amended your comment by removing the last line. I did not want to take down your entire post, because I wanted to preserve your opinions. We do moderate for profanity, though. I don’t think this alters the meaning of your post.

Jennifer

Maida

January 18th, 2012
5:53 pm

I agree with the sentiment that Angelina did more with this movie for the region than anyone else since 1992… This is perfect timing… Although some wounds will never heal entirely, I believe that enough time has passed and Bosnian people from all ethnic backgrounds can perhaps begin to have a real conversation abuot what happened, why it happened and how to best move forward.
Agnelina’s story telling is brilliant. In short couple of hours in showing this tender, complex, human experience of two people trying to understand why they are suddenly different and if they should fear each other or love each other, Angelina managed to summerize Bosnian conflict and its absurdity better than anyone else before. Wonderful job Angelina. Thank you very, very much!

Maida from Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina [currently residing in Chicago, IL]

marko

January 19th, 2012
2:01 pm

first of all,I’m not going to say anything about this movie,it’s so embarrassing. Angelina have a lot of stories to tell about! per example American society,American wars,American soldiers in Iraq,Afghanistan,Vietnam…I can’t talk about something that I’m not into. I can’t talk about American history,I can’t talk about American society ’cause I haven’t been to U.S…. But I can tell u that this movie is one-side opinion,story of one people,story that isn’t true! There were crime! But on both sides! Crime committed by Serbs,by Croatians and by Muslims! In the end,where does the idea came from to talk about something that she doesn’t have a clue? You can’t do something like that just because u think u can! U have ur own country,ur own problems,people in this region NOW live peaceful without hate and rage! Leave us alone!

Ana

January 19th, 2012
9:13 pm

I agree with Marko.War story for her film she can take from Avganistan, Irak etc. It was to meny rapes kilings and anhuman things from american solgers, there. She just need to ride local american newspapers every day, and she have domstic kilings story, from first hand..