Sunday 22 April 2018

Jolie's love story inflames ethnic tension in Bosnia

Philip Sherwell in New York

SHE is Hollywood's highest-paid actress and one-half of its most glamorous couple, and her instantly recognisable face looks out from glossy magazine covers. This time, however, Angelina Jolie is being feted for her work behind the camera in her directorial debut -- a harrowing story of love and war in Bosnia.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has shortlisted In the Land of Blood and Honey, which Jolie also wrote, in the best foreign language category for the Golden Globes. And her father, the actor Jon Voight, from whom she was long estranged, joined her for the festivities.

But in the Balkans, a world away from star-studded US premieres and glitzy after-parties, the film is inflaming old and deeply felt emotions.

The passionate reaction reflects the deep ethnic rifts that still divide Bosnia. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody fratricidal conflict that claimed an estimated 200,000 lives there.

Former Bosnian Muslim war prisoners and relations of massacre victims, some of them initially critical, lauded In the Land of Blood and Honey after being invited to a private screening. But the leader of a Bosnian Serb prisoners' group has criticised the film for its allegedly one-sided depiction of the atrocities.

As well, a Croatian journalist is suing Jolie and her team for plagiarism, claiming that she borrowed large chunks of the plot from a 2007 book he wrote about a love story set against the backdrop of the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Jolie has brushed aside the claim as "par for the course. It happens on almost every film."

The film, which opens in the US on Friday, centres on the fictional relationship between a Muslim woman artist and a Serbian army officer. Once romantically involved, before the war erupted in April 1992, they are reunited when she is detained in a Serbian internment camp that he commands. The existence of the camps, where rape, brutality and murder were common, shocked the world as an ethnic-cleansing campaign was waged on European soil.

There was outrage in Sarajevo during filming, amid erroneous media reports that the film actually depicted the story of a Muslim camp rape victim who falls in love with her Serbian attacker.

The Bosnian authorities revoked Jolie's filming permit and she finished shooting the movie in Budapest, in neighbouring Hungary.

Jolie urged critics to reserve judgement until they saw the film, which she said was "a love story, not a political statement".

After the private screening, Hatizda Mehmedovic, the head of an association of mothers of the 8,000 Muslim men and boys massacred at Srebrenica, struck a very different tone from her criticism last year. She thanked Jolie for "her intellectual and financial investment" and said: "The film is so strong, so difficult -- and it would have been stronger if it was shot in Bosnia."

© Telegraph

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