Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams is a stilted but touching articulation of a Sarajevo suburb’s collective grief years after the Bosnian War. The story orbits around Esma (Mirjana Karanovic), a woman of great emotional reserve and fierce dedication. This devotion is validated by her persistence to secure the 200 euros young Sara (Luna Mijovic) needs for a class trip. Mother and daughter are at a difficult crossroads, both as women and as victims, and the nature of their fighting holds a complex mirror up to a national crisis. Writer-director Jasmila Zbanic reveals her debt to the neorealist movement in these and other scenes of people sorting through the rubble of their post-war lives: a rift between Sara and a schoolmate turns to compassion and, later, romance when they learn that their fathers were both martyrs, and Esma warms up to the advances of a stranger after she learns he is also waiting to find and claim his father’s body. Zbanic is devoted to scenes of reconstruction, and against a backdrop of a city that still lays in ruin, people choose either oblivion or a future of possibilities. The filmmaker’s acute attention to blunt emotional trauma is startling, earning comparisons to Keren Yedaya’s Or (My Treasure). Zbanic avoids that film’s guttersniping, but Grbavica lacks for the poetry that has made Vittorio de Sica’s great Two Women a cornerstone of neorealism. One may posit a correlative between Esma’s emotional state and the lack of pretense to the filmmaking, but Zbanic’s gentle approach is more televisual than cinematic. Worse, though, is that for all her gentleness, Zbanic laces the story with narrative devices that exist only to suss out the reasons for Esma’s non-attempts to secure the paperwork Sara needs to prove to school officials that her father was a martyr. The film, then, is every bit as conflicted as its characters—greatly humane but almost outlandishly schematic.
- Strand Releasing
- 90 min
- Jasmila Zbanic
- Jasmila Zbanic
- Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic, Leon Lucev, Kenan Catic, Jasna Beri, Jasna Ornela Berry, Dejan Acimovic, Bogdan Diklic, Emir Hadzihafisbegovic, Ermin Bravo, Semka Sokolovic-Bertok, Maike Höhne, Jasna Zalica, Nada Djurevska
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