FILM REVIEW: In the Land of Blood and Honey
Brad Pitt, who has done some producing, is apparently also keen to direct, but his wife has pipped him to the post.
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Vanessa Glodjo, Rade Serbedzija
Angelina Jolie's first film, In the Land of Blood and Honey , is surprisingly unglamorous and relentlessly bleak.
It is a love story set during the Bosnian war.
Despite protests from Serbian interest groups about their portrayal in the film, the Producers Guild of America was impressed by Jolie's directing debut, giving the film the 2012 Stanley Kramer Award.
The accolade recognises films that "illuminate provocative social issues in an accessible and elevating fashion".
While the film may be a bit heavy-handed in its approach to the issues of violence against women during war, there are a number of directing decisions that make it a personal rather than a Hollywood popcorn project.
Jolie, who does not appear in the film, chose actors from the former Yugoslavia and shot the story, which she wrote, in a mixture of local languages and English.
The story focuses on Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim woman who meets a Serbian police officer, Danijel, in Sarajevo before the war and is reunited with him when she is sent to a "rape camp", where he is in charge. This is not a story that makes for comfortable viewing.
Jolie's focus on issues of violence against women and the extensive research she did before writing the script mean we are not spared the grisly details of camp life, including mass executions, rape and child murder.
It's all the more affecting when you remember that the events described in the film took place less than 20 years ago.
Jolie's handling of the practical aspects is good and it's clear she has learnt something about what to do behind the camera from being in front of it all these years.
That said, Jolie's good intentions may have led her to craft a film that, while watchable and socially relevant, can't quite balance its need to raise awareness with the demand to keep its narrative focused enough to hold attention beyond the shocks of the subject matter.
There's nothing to be ashamed of here, but this is not so much a life-changing film as a well-handled piece of social commentary that raises important questions but is perhaps a little thin on its love story narrative and hampered by the sincerity and personal crusade of its director.
- 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' opens at cinemas tonight
WHAT ANGELINA JOLIE SAYS
"IT WAS a particularly hard film because I was asking people to recreate things they actually lived through and do brutal things to each other. As rough as we depicted the violence against women, it was really a thousand times worse.
"On the first day of filming, we shot a mass rape scene, and it was the first time these people from different sides of the conflict were in the same space and working together. I thought, 'This is either going to bring about great tension and we're going to have a very difficult morning, or it's going to do something else.'
". there was a strong intention on my part to make it hard to watch because I wanted people to sit for two hours and be thinking, 'Please stop this, somebody intervene.' We made it difficult to watch on purpose." - ©The Daily Telegraph