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Quo Vadis,Aida? …An Anti-War Masterpiece Not For The Weakhearted



Quo Vadis, Aida?

Starring  Jasna Đuričić as Aida Selmanagić

Written & Directed by Jasmila Žbanić

Rating: *****

This harrowing masterpiece, shot with the  vividness of a flying bullet,  hits home  reminding  us  of the  ravages of war during times when  countries perpetrating  war  extol their soldiers as  messiahs  saving the  border  from enemies.  Often times, the soldier  are nothing but messengers  of  death as  they enter  into  hostile territory  and  kill  civilians.

This is what happened  in    on  11 July 1995 in the small idyllic town  of  Srebrenica where  the Bosnian Serb  army entered and  killed thousands  of men and boys. Oh, they spared  the women and children…so kind of them. History has not forgotten  their kindness. The screams of protest as  husbands were  torn  away from wives, sons from their mothers and taken  away to be butchered will  ring in your ears for  as long as  man plunders  for land. This is a  film like no other.Its description of  political violence  is  exceptional.

This stunningly vivid  unforgettable  anti-war drama is a shrieking war cry. It takes  us into a UN camp in Srebenica where thousands  of  refugees are in hiding from the invasion thinking they safe. Minute by minute , brick by brick writer-director Jasmila Žbanić  builds the dramatic tension inside the  camp as  safety becomes  a  retreating myth, and death an impending reality.

 The  film is  so vivid and palpable  it feels as though we are transported  back in time. To  have  an actress as  brilliantly unobtrusive as Jasna Đuričić play the protagonist, a UN translator named Aida Selmanagic , is  a masterstroke. I have  never seen  Ms Đuričić before. Now I will seek out this Serbian wonder woman’s   other  films. 

 By pursuing one  astute gutsy woman’s turbulent emotions at  a point in time in history when  death is  the  inevitable  reality, we are thrown right  in the  middle of a brutal  conflict where  civilian lives cease to matter.A blurred  myopic moral  compass runs through the  film’s narrative. By the time Aida is reduced to bargaining  for her husband and two sons’  lives with the officers in-charge we feel her terror and sinking hope  as though  we are there with her.

At one  point she tells the officers she can shoot her  sons in their legs  so they can be sneaked away in a hospital.“Spare  at least one  of my sons,” she  bleats  like  a sacrificial lamb.  Aida lives. Her family is butchered. They were all men, unfortunately.

 My favourite scene in this indescribably searing masterpiece is the one where Aida,   months after the war returns to her apartment which is  now taken  over by another woman.As she  looks around at what  not so long was her family abode,  sounds and visual of her earlier life come back to haunt her.

 I have no shame in admitting I wept through much  of this film.As should all of civilization which thinks war is  heroic .This  is a  film that wil be talked for many  years to come.The editing(Jarosław Kamiński), the cinematography(Christine A. Maier) , the  tightly-wound narrative  structure and every actor  playing every   civilian and officer on that doomed camp is wedged in my head. I want to revisit the  film to  absorb  more of its  majestic musk  of mortality. But I can’t. I am  too frightened.

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