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Copyright 2004




No Man's Land: A voice against war

Take a look at this little message that precedes a film by Danis Tanovic, his first, in fact. "The language spoken by the Serbians, the Croatians and the Bosnians is in fact the same. Today, the Serbians call it Serbian, while the Croatians call it Croatian and the Bosnians call it Bosnian".

Not just this. They have divided their land, what was once Yugoslavia, and continue to be at each other's throat, thirsting for blood.

Man's strange and self-destructive temperament has been captured on celluloid by Tanovic, and the way he does it is absolutely fantastic. This young director, who calls himself a Bosnian, laces the irony and the abject horror of war with disarming humour. When the soldiers in the movie fight, not always with landmines and guns, they are quick to realise, all at once, the futility of warring. There are moments, many, when they pause to ponder that the one next to oneself is, just like himself, a man.

Tanovic said recently that although he could not forget the tragedy he and his family faced at the height of the conflict, war is hardly a solution to any human problem. And this is what he tries to say in "No Man's Land", often with wit and sarcasm.

"Of course," he adds quickly, "I am not trying to deny responsibility for the atrocities committed in the war. I would never do something like that because there were victims on one side and people who committed crimes on the other. But the point of my work is not to accuse. The story is not about pointing who did wrong. The point is to raise a voice against any kind of war. It is my vote against violence of any kind".

Tanovic's picture opens into a foggy evening when a Bosnian patrol finds itself within the firing line of the Serbs. Later, two Serbs arrive and one of them is trapped with a Bosnian in no man's land. While both try and draw the attention of their respective forces across the patch of earth, they learn that they have to grapple with not only an injured soldier strapped to a bomb (which will explode the minute he moves), but also an international embarrassment involving the U.N. and world media.

What follows is sheer drama, moving at times, but always underlining the absurdity and irrationality of trying to talk through the barrel of a gun.

(This story/review appeared in The Hindu dated August 3 2001)

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