(2005, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbo-Croatian, 97 min)
Reviewed by Bruce Kogan
I saw this film at the Image Out Film Festival in Rochester and what I saw is a powerful story about both love and hate reaching across ethnic and religious boundaries.
The love is what Mario Drmec and Tarik Filipovic have for each other. Same sex couples have it bad enough there, but in this case Mario is a Moslem from Bosnia and Tarik is a Serb.
The story is told to us in flashback by Mario being interviewed by a French journalist played by Jeanne Moreau. As Yugoslavia breaks apart the various ethnic groups resume all their ancient hatreds and start killing each other with vehemence as we all read in the Nineties.
Mario in order to pass into the Christian Serbian area goes into drag. It seems as though the Christians check out the privates of all the males and if they're circumcised as Moslems have to do as well as Jews they're summarily shot. The ruse works, but the lovers have to continue the masquerade when they get to Tarik's village. Or at least until a helpful friend can obtain the necessary documents to go west to the other side of the Rhine in Europe. Of course when someone does discover the ruse there are unforeseen consequences.
Yugoslavia itself was a creation of western European fatuity. Serbia was on the Allied side of World War I and they got a kind of hegemony over a whole lot of territory formerly belonging to both the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires. At Versailles the Serb king was made monarch over the whole polyglot nation and after World War II, a very charismatic leader named Josip Broz Tito led an independent Marxist/Socialist government.
When Marshal Tito died, the country itself died. Held together by an extraordinary man the one thing Tito did not do was solve any ancient hatreds. What happens here happened all over what was Yugoslavia, only this story has gay angle to it.
Love, even same sex love can bridge all kinds of boundaries if we're open to it. The friend who is helping the lovers urges them to go west to western Europe where they can live free and prosper. All they have there is ethnic hatred.
One other very valuable lesson here is that the film does focus on the atrocities of the Serbs and the Bosnians. Remember this is now a decade where admittedly Moslems are doing some horrible things in many parts of the globe. I am glad that the villain here is not one religion, but a fanatical fundamentalist interpretation of any religion with which people can justify all kinds of barbarism.
Ahmed Imamovic the director has received death threats from all sides in the former Yugoslavia for even creating a story involving gay people there. The man has risked his life for this powerful story, buy a ticket and don't miss it.