17 March 2009

Balkan Wars Film Festival

Geographically, the area of the world that I am most interested in is Central and Eastern Europe which, in my definition, stretches from the Czech Republic to Russia.

I have been to most of these countries on holiday or for work and hope to plug the missing gaps (e.g. Albania and Macedonia) before to long.

I am also a member of the British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) and was a member of the much missed British Association of Central and Eastern Europe (BACEE).

Therefore I was bound to be interested in the Balkan Wars Film Festival held at Roehampton University, which is just the other side of Richmond Park from me.

The film showings are timed to suit the students but I was able to get there to see No Man's Land, which won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2002.

This black comedy is about the futility and absurdity of the Serb/Bosnian war. Three soldiers from opposing armies find themselves trapped in a trench between the two front lines with a mine which is about to blow them all up. The presence of the UN and media does not help.

At one level it is a laugh-out-loud comedy and on another it is a subtle comedy. I loved the play on racial stereotypes with the French UN soldiers asking everybody if they speak French before being forced to use English, the German mine experts who arrives exactly on time and the hopelessly out of touch English commander who his behind regulations to avoid making decisions.

The film has a very dark side too - two of the main protagonists are killed and the third is abandoned to a certain death in the trench (he's sitting on a mine that will go off if he moves).

And, of course, the war itself provides a dark backdrop to the whole film. We see peasant soldiers fighting each other without really understanding what the war is about or who started it.

The most depressing thing for me about the film is how little we have learnt, or changed our behaviour, since then and many of the characteristics of this war can also be seen in places like Somalia, Congo, Georgia, ...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a very watchable film. Dylan's old song Blowing In The Wind comes to mind. History seems to repeat itself, sadly.


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