Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (Austria/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Germany/Croatia; 107 min.)

directed by: Jasmila Zbanic
starring: Mirjana Karanovic; Luna Mijovic; Leon Lucev

Michael says: "GRBAVICA: THE LAND OF MY DREAMS is a great candidate for a Buried Treasure nominee, with echoes of OR (MY TREASURE) and THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS. This powerful debut form Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic looks at the psychological and emotional scarring left from a war ten years past from a singularly female point of view. Esma is a middle-aged woman haunted by her past. She takes a job as a waitress in a nightclub in order to raise the money she needs to send her adolescent daughter Sara on a school trip. Alternating between dowdy and attractive, Esma rarely loses the vaguely haunted look skirting and occasionally settling on her wide eyes. She catches the eye of Pelda, a bouncer of sorts at the nightclub, and a tentative romance blossoms over some gallow’s humor about identifying a relatives’ body after being unearthed from a mass grave.

"Sara, meanwhile, bonds with a young male classmate after they discover both their fathers were freedom fighters in the war and killed by Serbs. Yet Esma is strangely reticent to discuss Sara’s father or the details about his death, even though producing the certificate that would prove him to have been a freedom fighter would allow Sara to attend the school trip for free. Sara bounces from loving and innocent to bratty and willful and back again as many adolescents do, but whenever she pushes Esma toward her past, her loving mother stops it short, usually with a slap.

"There are a couple of heavy-handed moments that can be chalked up to “first-filmitis,” but the performances are outstanding. Mirjana Karanovic is magnificent as Esma, her sudden emotional shifts are never overdone and are frighteningly real. Young Luna Mijovic handles the difficult role of Sara adeptly, perhaps overplaying the brattiness a touch; I certainly wanted to slap her a couple of times, yet navigating through the emotional scenes with finesse. Zbanic handles the visual well too, creating some lovely scenes using deft camerawork, reflections and architecture.

"For western audiences films like GRBAVICA: THE LAND OF MY DREAMS and THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS seek to remind people of an horrific war that we tend to forget about. The survivors who struggle to live their lives after being victims of such brutality must soldier on embracing life and love despite the unimaginable tortures that have been rained upon them. 4 cats"

Beth says: "I found this a truly genuine film. Each character was coping with a very personal crisis, yet each one needed the closeness/intimacy of other people in order to get through it. I found the performance of daughter Sara (Luna Mijovic) warm and convincing. This was a key role in the film, because it was just as important to view her teenage brattiness as it was to see how loveable she is in her mother's eyes. I appreciated that the more dramatic scenes were not overdone. I felt it was beautifully shot, and well-directed - in such a way that the viewer is able experience the feelings of each character interchangeably. I am hoping this will be nominated in the buried treasure category. 4.5 cats