Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (review)

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Winner of several festival awards and the official entry from Bosnia and Herzegovina for the best foreign language film Oscar in 2006 (it was not nominated), this is not a true story, but it might well be: its devastating power rings with honesty and terrible authenticity. Esma (the lovely Mirjana Karanovic) and her 12-year-old daughter, Sara (Luna Mijovic), live in Grbavica, a Sarajevo neighborhood that was, during the war, the location of a prison camp notorious for torture and rape. Now, hollow-eyed with, well, survival, those who live here are trying to move on even as mass graves are still being dug up. That kind of horror happens offscreen; what writer-director Jasmila Zbanic brings to the screen is the daily horror of trying to cope with the past when it looms all around you, sometimes from the most unexpected of places. We don’t know why, at first, Esma, struggling with multiple dead-end jobs, doesn’t take an easier path to pay for a much-desired school trip for Sara — all Esma need do is dig up the piece of paper that documents her daughter’s absent father’s military service, and the trip will be free to this child of a veteran. Zbanic crafts her reveals so carefully, and with a delicate attention to the emotional and social ruin her characters are living in, that even when we see them coming, they shock us nevertheless. (There are no bonus features of any kind on the disc.) [buy at Amazon]

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