Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Night at the Movies

Last night was the Mostar premiere of a new Bosnian film called The Nightguards (Cuvari Noci). The director and actors even came to Abrasevic to speak about the film and answer questions. The production company behind the film is pro.ba, a Sarajevo-based production house for documentaries and more artsy films. We showed another film by pro.ba in November, Snow (Snijeg). I was struck by how similar the two films felt-- slow paced, nuanced, character driven with an ensemble cast, reminiscent of Altman films, although a bit more spare (perhaps due more to lack of resources than conscious choice.) An obvious difference between the two is that Nightguards features an all male cast (the only female actress is present only as a voice over the phone) whereas Snow's cast is almost entirely female and the director is a woman as well. Snow is more emotional and dramatic whereas Nightguards is more ironic and humorous, but these moods are conveyed through very similar cinematography with long shots and natural lighting.

These films present a drastic contrast to most of the other Bosnian post-war-not-set-in-war films I have seen (Gori Vatra, Grbavica, Tesko je Biti Fin, etc), with their black humor, farcical elements and violence. They remind me more of Fifth Generation films from China (admittedly, this is likely due to the fact that 5th Gen are the only films I have studied and know about-- I briefly considered throwing in a reference as well to Italian neo-realism but I don't know anything about it!), which are similarly slow paced, with little dialogue and beautiful spare cinematography. They are similar to in that 5th Generation filmmakers were the first ones to make films in China after the trauma of the Cultural Revolution and Bosnian filmmakers today are still dealing with the trauma of the war, a difference being that Chinese filmmakers faced serious issues of government censorship, whereas it seems to me (although maybe this isn't accurate) that Bosnian auteurs have more freedom of expression, although they still mostly funded by the government. These Chinese filmmakers in the end grew to become more commercial (um, plot driven) while still preserving the artistic element (in my opinion), but new filmmakers like Zhang Jiake emerged and created more gritty, urban portraits... Where will Bosnian film go from here? I can't wait to see.
PS: for those who read my post about Bosnian dentists... when the main character in the film is sick, he begins to drink, you guessed it, tea. :)

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