Children of the Bosnian War

Children of the Bosnian War

Every cast member of In the Land of Blood and Honey was in some way directly affected by the events of the war. Each brought their own stories and experiences to the project and enriched their characters and the film with their own histories.

Zana Marjanoviæ was fortunate enough to be able to escape to Slovenia during the war. “I was born in Sarajevo and was only eight years old during the war. 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. It’s one of the reasons why my mom took us to Slovenia. Many Bosnian Muslims emigrated, but my mother believed the war would end the next day, every day. So we waited in the closest country for the war to end, so we could go back home.”

In 2001, Marjanoviæ moved back to Sarajevo where she currently lives. The notion of Ajla being an artist was what Marjanoviæ most personally connected with. Being an artist allows Ajla to be expressive, to share the way that she sees the world, to create. It allows her to be open to new experiences and new ideas. “An artist feels and perceives things in very specific ways,” says Marjanoviæ, “and leaves his or her expression for others to see.” I like this sense of character for Ajla. Artists are also often very strong yet delicate persons. And the same could be said of Ajla.”

Goran Kostiæ suggests that it is Ajla who symbolizes the future, whereas Danijel is trapped in the past. “She is everything he is not,” Kostiæ says. “Ajla is the creative one; she is the one who sees the world. Danijel is always holding back, and she’s always pushing forward. She has a courage and an energy he is attracted to.”

Jolie sees Ajla in a precarious and almost impossible situation. “There’s a point where Danijel is safety and security. And there’s a point where she has to decide if he’s redeemable, or simply her enemy. She is put in a very different situation, and how she tries to gain the upper hand becomes the chess game of the film.”

Children of the Bosnian War

Kostiæ, a Bosnian Serb, had a direct connection to the war, and to the character of Danijel. “Every single Kostiæ back to the beginning of time was a military person. I’m the first to break this tradition. If you weren’t a general by the age of 45 in my family, you were nothing. I had this really strong feeling growing up about who I was supposed to be. I was even accepted to the military academy, but I turned it down.”

“I was born and raised in Sarajevo. I left for London when I was 20, a year before the war started. At the time, communism was falling, and economically, Yugoslavia was quite strong.

There was a healthy middle class there. So after communism, there was an exciting liberal sense of freedom in the air. While I was in London, the war began. That entire feeling vanished overnight. My girlfriend at the time—she’s my wife now—was with me. We both realized we couldn’t go home because there was no home to go to.’

Being separated from his family made his situation all the more conflicting as the war dragged on. “It was awful. For the first two years, I felt this strange void in myself. I was working as a waiter at the time, but it was always very mechanical. My mind was somewhere else. There was a point where I knew exactly when each British station would hold their news broadcasts. I had to check the news 24 hours a day. I would jump into empty hotel rooms and watch the news to hear what was happening in Bosnia.

Thankfully, my family made it out without anyone being killed or any of our possessions destroyed. I remember talking to my mother on the phone. I can hear the bombs in the distance. All I can say is, ‘Mom, take care of yourself.’ This was the same weekend as a London bombing. And my mom actually tells me, ‘Son, take care of yourself.’ I didn’t know whether to cry or smile! It was the first time where I had to ask, ‘What should I do? Who am I as a man, as the son of a Serbian officer? Should I fight? Who should I fight for?’ I could never come up with an answer I truly believed in. Eventually, I realized that the best thing was to stay away. There was no good fight.”

He may not have fought, but Kostiæ strongly relates his own conflicts with Danijel’s. “I never participated in the war, but Danijel is also not a happy participant,” he says. “He’s isn’t strong enough to not fight. He’s not in charge of his fate. He’s a prisoner to himself and his circumstances.” Jolie notes how much Danijel is controlled by the forces around him. “By nature of his family and the war, he was put in a position that he isn’t strong enough to refuse or escape, and he doesn’t quite know how to handle it. He knows there’s something wrong. As he says, he recognizes people. He has trouble seeing an enemy in somebody he went to school with. He questions the war, but is never able to follow through with the questioning.”

“Danijel never became a true man, a free man,” Kostiæ says. “If we all had the strength to not participate, maybe the war would never have occurred. He allows himself to be pushed and shoved by history, by tradition, by his father. He doesn’t bother to protect himself from these bad dark forces coming over him. He may not pull the trigger initially, but he is just as guilty as those who do.”

Danijel’s inability to behave with any kind of will leaks into his own wishful thinking about his relationship with Ajla. “Danijel is pretending that they have some kind of normal life together,” Kostiæ says, “but it’s crumbling as time passes. It follows the way humanity deteriorates in Bosnia at that time. It begins pure and about love, and then starts twisting and turning and getting darker. Danijel starts out feeling protected with Ajla from the world outside. She is like a mother to him, but eventually it’s not about love anymore.” Marjanoviæ recognizes the conflict and strain that the relationship has on Ajla’s choices.

“She’s constantly in conflict. She’s not in love with the enemy; she’s in love, and later, that person becomes her enemy. There’s never a single moment when she ‘turns,’ but it slowly evolves throughout the film. Ajla always has a sense of justice throughout, even if her decisions are very emotionally difficult. There’s never any hate or vengeful feelings, but she knows that her actions are right. It’s about sacrificing something you love for the greater good.”

The character of Lejla serves as an emotional anchor for Ajla’s own decisions. Lejla is the sister who is trapped in Sarajevo, fighting against the Serb army, and mourning the death of her child. The woman who plays Lejla, Vanesa Glodjo can relate to Lejla’s situation. She too lived through the siege of Sarajevo, as a teenager. “I lived on the front line, and had to walk to my school through the snipers every day,” she says. “It was an hour-and-a-half in each direction, every day. We were blocked in for four years. We couldn’t leave the city. Luckily we had a small garden, so we could eat different things during the war! I wanted to be an actress before the war started, but the war blew up those plans for a while.”

Glodjo may have been front and center for the brutality of the siege, but it didn’t help her understand what was going on around her. “It’s a completely different picture seeing the war from the inside than outside. Actually, we knew less than people outside. We just experienced grenades and shelling. News was limited to prevent panic among people. In the beginning, we all thought it would last 15 days or something like that. Soon after, we saw that you could really die. When it started, it felt like you were in a war movie. But when we began to see how serious it was, we just felt fear.”

Glodjo knew a neighbor whose baby was murdered, and her emotional response was greatly informative for Glodjo when she played Lejla. “She didn’t cry for one month. She had no ability to react. But then, she would cry so loudly every night. She cried for one year after that.” Glodjo herself was also wounded during the war.

Marjanoviæ notes the shifting roles that occur within Ajla and Lejla’s relationship. “Ajla and Lejla take care of each other. Ajla babysits the child so that her sister can take a shower. I’ve witnessed from my own family life that young mothers don’t even have the time to do things like that! Ajla, being a little sister, sees her older sister almost as a mother. But then she grows up and ends up taking care of her older sister toward the end of the film.”

Rade Šerbedžija plays Nebojsa, the Serb general whose zeal for war is born of his own warped sense of history, an attitude that he uses to control his son, Danijel. Šerbedžija is part Serbian, but was born and raised in Croatia, which experienced its own war in 1991. “I worked everywhere in Yugoslavia,” he says. “I was creatively very happy. Life was good. Then the tensions started and I took a strong stand against nationalism and war. I went to peace meetings, talked, sang, and eventually became the enemy of all nationalist political officials.

“A big part of my family was slaughtered by Croatian Nazis during World War II. My parents never burdened me with that; on the contrary, I was raised to love. I knew some characters similar to Nebojsa. I was deeply disturbed when I saw what position they had taken in the war and where they were heading. Some of them saw a war as a chance to change their life and have a fresh start. Some were just blinded by nationalism.”

Šerbedžija was in Bosnia when the war started, and it destroyed his reputation in the region. “I stayed for two weeks in Sarajevo after the fighting started, and then I had to go back to Belgrade where my wife was about to give birth. That was how our exile started. I was a ‘traitor and enemy’ in both Croatia and Serbia for my public anti-war views. I didn’t want to choose the side of any nation. I was on the side of humanity and peace, but that was very unpopular at the time.”

For Šerbedžija, Nebojsa is as much a slave to bigger forces as Danijel is. “His perspective is heavily burdened by the trauma from his childhood and probably by being an unhappy person as a whole” he says. “He is obsessed by the mythology and the past as unfortunately many people became. He goes back to what some Muslims did to his family in the Second World War. We see what an unhappy person Nebojsa is. No matter how big his wounds are, it is not justification for taking a revenge on innocent people 60 years later.”

Read full production notes for In the Land of Blood and Honey >>

In the Land of Blood and Honey Trailer

The first trailer for In the Land of Blood and Honey has arrived. This drama marks the directorial debut of actress Angelina Jolie and focuses on a love story set against the Bosnian war, with Rade Serbedzija, Nikola Djuricko, and Goran Kostic in the leads. The film depicts the story of a wartime love affair between a Serbian man and an imprisoned Muslim woman.

Danijel, a soldier fighting for the Serbs, and Ajla, a Bosnian held captive in the camp he oversees, knew each other before the war, and could have found love with each other. But as the armed conflict takes hold of their lives, their relationship grows darker, their motives and connection to one another ambiguous, their allegiances uncertain.

In the Land of Blood and Honey comes to theaters December 23rd, 2011 and stars Rade Serbedzija, Nikola Djuricko, Branko Djuric, Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Goran Jevtic, Fedja Stukan, Dolya Gavanski. The film is directed by Angelina Jolie.

In the Land of Blood and Honey Trailer

Read the Full Production Notes for In the Land oüf Blood and Honey

Angelina Jolie talks her directorial debut

Angelina Jolie talks her directorial debut

What Angelina Jolie is focused on are new career endeavors — writing and directing — both of which she says she fell into by accident. She talked Vanity Fair magazine on directorial debut.

It was a bout with the flu that led her to write the script that’s now her latest film, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” a love story set during the Bosnian Civil War. “I had to be quarantined from the children for two days. I was in the attic of a house in France. I was isolated, pacing. I don’t watch TV and I wasn’t reading anything. So I started writing,” she explains.

And what was Brad’s feedback after she gave him the script to read on a trip? Well, it could have been worse. “He called and said, ‘You know, honey, it’s not that bad.'”

As for becoming the film’s director, Jolie says she simply didn’t trust handing off the job. “I’ve never felt more exposed,” she says of her screenwriting and directorial endeavors. “My whole career, I’ve hidden behind other people’s words. Now it’s me talking. You feel ridiculous when you get something wrong.”

Though Jolie jokes about the fact Brad thinks that — with her new experience under her belt — she’s going to be a “nightmare” when it comes to dealing with directors from now on, she also shares how helpful he’s been throughout the project. “He’d come in and say what he liked or what he didn’t understand. Like any woman, I would listen to most of it and fight a few things,” she admits. “He’s been so supportive. But it’s hard to separate the person that loves you from the critic, so I don’t think hes a fair judge.”

View more Angelina Jolie news, picture galleries, interviews, and more at Angelina Jolie Style >>

Bosnia revokes filming permission for Angelina Jolie film

Bosnia revokes filming permission for Angelina Jolie film

Bosnian authorities on Wednesday revoked permission for US star Angelina Jolie to shoot part of her directorial debut film there after complaints from a women war victims group, Bosnian radio reported.

Gavrilo Grahovac, the Culture Minister of the Muslim-Croat federation — one of the two entities in post-war Bosnia — revoked permission to shoot scenes in Sarajevo and the central town Zenica, he said on Bosnian radio.

Hollywood trade daily Variety reported that the film will tell the story of a Serbian man and Bosnian woman who fall in love in the middle of the war, but are driven to take different paths.

However Bosnian press reported the movie would be a love story between a Muslim victim and her rapist, a Serb, causing outrage among victims’ groups.

“They no longer have the authorisation to shoot in Bosnia. They will have it if they send us the scenario with a story which will be different from what we have been told by people who read it,” Grahovac told the radio.

The culture minister said that while he could not stop the film from being shot somewhere else, revoking the filming license was a way to “express our disapproval for the shooting of a movie which does not tell the truth and hurts a large number of victims”.

Jolie has already started shooting the film in Hungary and was planning to continue it in Bosnia.

According to Bosnian actress Zana Marjanovic, who has landed the lead in the movie, the film is “an epic drama against the backdrop of the 1992-92 Bosnian war”.

But women war victims groups were up in arms over the film’s reported subject of a rapist and his victim falling in love.

“This is misleading history. Among thousands of testimonies by women raped during the war, there is not a single one that tells of a love story between a victim and her rapist,” Bakira Hasecic, the head of the “Women victims of war” association in Sarajevo, told AFP.

“We will not allow anyone to falsify our pain,” she added.

International organisations have estimated that thousands of women were raped during the Bosnian war.

In February 2001, the UN war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia convicted three Bosnian Serbs for crimes against humanity and war crimes after they were found guilty of rape and forced prostitution of Bosnian Muslim women in the southeastern town Foca.

The verdict marked the first time an international court had ruled that rape was a crime against humanity.