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No Man's Land
cast: Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Simon Callow, and Katrin Cartlidge
writer and director: Danis Tanovic

93 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Peter Schilling
In the wake of several recent American war films, made with typically bloated Hollywood sentiments (and levels of financial backing that could fund actual conflicts), this low-key Euro-production shot on a miniscule budget by Bosnian first-time director Danis Tanovic is agreeably unpretentious and very genuinely entertaining in its depiction of both insanity and humour on the battlefield, and deservedly won an Oscar for best foreign language film.
   No Man's Land finds two enemy soldiers, Bosnian Chiki and Serbian Nino trapped in a trench between the lines, abandoned to bleak fate by their respective armies, and waiting impatiently for the UN ceasefire monitors to save them from each other, and the bouncing mine buried under Chiki's fallen comrade-in-arms, Cera. Though favourably reminiscent of Billy Wilder's classic Ace In The Hole (1951), the prevailing tone here is more absurdly tragic than bitingly cynical. The film examines succinctly the explosive political situation and climate of cultural hatred that gave shape to 'ethnic cleansing' terrors, while bemoaning the lack of any suitably benign intervention from UN forces. Such heavyweight issues could have so easily have resulted in a turgid exposé of recent Bosnian-Herzegovinan history, but under Tanovic's daring and astute direction, this frankly astonishing drama boasts a number of richly satirical scenes.
   Of particular note, the late Katrin Cartlidge is superb as demanding and feisty but frequently incisive TV journalist Jane Livingston, while the reliable Simon Callow is darkly amusing in his minor role as the media-aware Colonel Soft, so dutifully concerned but often exasperated by his untenable position (we first see him playing chess between urgent telephone calls), caught between UN Security Council apathy, and the tenacity and ferocity of Bosnians and Serbs. Also, most jarringly, for viewers more familiar with grimly photographed TV footage of war-torn 'killing fields', this story takes place against a backdrop of glorious Bosnian summer in the midst of idyllic rolling hills and meadows.
   This welcome DVD release features a pristine anamorphic transfer and Dolby digital 2.0 soundtrack in original Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles.
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