The trailer for Angelina Jolie's In The Land Of Blood And Honey, the first movie she has written and directed, debuted on Friday.
The film is a love story, according to the actress, which takes place during the Bosnian War of the mid-1990s. In the rubble following the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991, the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina was ripped apart by an ethnically-charged civil war that resulted in 100,000 deaths and the displacement of two million people.
The war devolved into what can only be considered ethnic cleansing and genocide, with some of the worst post-World War II atrocities occurring by the hands of both government and paramilitary forces.
The choice to make a film about this area and set in this time in history was also to remind people of what happened not so long ago and to give attention to the survivors of the war, Jolie stated when filming In The Land Of Blood And Honey.
The film sparked controversy last October after Bosnia revoked Jolie's film permit over rumors that the film was about a Bosniak Muslim woman who falls in love with the Serb soldier who rapes her.
While Jolie denied the allegations, the permit controversy shows that the wounds of the Bosnian war are far from healed. With war criminals like Ratko Mladic, who was involved in the Srebrenica massacre and the Siege of Sarajevo (where the film takes place), and Goran Hadži? currently being held by the International Criminal Court on charges such as mass murder, genocide, terrorist acts and crimes against humanity, the horrors of the Bosnian war are all too present in the shattered country.
Additionally, while the hero of the story may not have actually raped the female lead, he is apparently a rape camp administrator. During the war, some 20,000 to 50,000 Bosnian women were systematically raped, and they were often rounded up and placed inside houses where they were tortured and abused repeatedly.
So far, only 12 of the 50,000 rape cases have been brought to trial.
So, is this a positive or negative aspect of the film? Is it enlightening the world on the horrors of war and the dangers of ethnic intolerance, or is it opening old woulds for the sake of compelling story telling?
One of the most commendable aspects of In The Land Of Blood And Honey is that Jolie used many local actors, including the recognizable Rade Serbedzija. Taking a page from the Italian Neorealists of the 1940s, using local actors helps eliminate the often-exploitative Hollywood-ness of a film. Filming on location in Bosnia is important for this reason as well.
In the vein of great directors like Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, Jolie has heightened the realism of the film, which is imperative if In The Land Of Blood And Honey is to be more than just a box-office success. Additionally, Jolie is releasing both an English version of the film, and a Bosnian version, another commendable feature.
While the trailer reveals a gripping love story, the victims of the Bosnian War, as well as the world, won't find out if the move is successful in its recreation of the ethnic conflict until it is released in December.