No Man's Land

Is the Bosnian war an appropriate topic for satire? Yes, when it's this scathing. In a trench between enemy lines, two soldiers — the Bosnian Ciki (Branko Djuric) and the Serb Nino (Rene Bitorajac) — face off in a microcosm of the Bosnian war. Haven't we been there? Not like this. The Bosnian documentarian Danis Tanovic has written and directed a first feature that defies glib categorization. Fierce, funny and finally devastating, Tanovic's superb film offers a timely look at the roots of civil war and acts of terrorism on both sides that can be exploited by political and media hypocrites alike.

Ciki and Nino share that trench with Cera (Filip Sovagovic), a Bosnian soldier the Serbs have booby-trapped with a spring mine that will explode at the slightest movement. Ciki and Nino must work together to keep him calm and still. The two enemies tell stories, discover they dated the same woman and find other commonalities including a passion to survive. As part of their truce, U.N. peacemakers show up in a white tank to help. But the French officer in charge, Sgt. Marchand (Georges Siatidis), is ordered not to interfere. When savvy TV reporter Jane Livingstone (Katrin Cartlidge) threatens to spark a global scandal, U.N. bigwig Col. Soft (Simon Callow) stops playing footsie with his leggy secretary in Zagreb and choppers in to defuse the situation. Though political disaster is averted, humanity is the tragic victim of war. Again. You won't forget No Man's Land — it stings.

From The Archives Issue 883: December 6, 2001