Saturday, July 7, 2012

No. 6 As if I am not there (2010)

Gender crimes during the Balkan conflict 

As the posts on Esma's Secret and the Secret Life of Words shows there are a number of movies which deal with the consequences of rape and sexual violence during the conflict in the Former Yugoslavia.  More recently, a number of films have focused on women and their experiences of the conflict.  These include today's movie As if I am not there, Snow and In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie's controversial film. 

As if I am not there (2010), directed by Juanita Wilson, an Irish director, is based on the book by Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic.  Drakulic has written many books including an excellent book 'They would never hurt a fly: war criminals on trial at the Hague'. To gather the material for both these books Drakulic spent time at the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) watching the trials.  In 'They would never hurt a fly' she gives descriptions of those prosecuted by the Tribunal while in 'As if I am not there' she tells the story of 'S' a victim of sexual violence during the Balkan conflict. 

The movie starts a little differently from the book and focuses on a young woman who moves from the city to a village to take her first post as a teacher.  Shortly after her move Serbian soldiers come to the village, separating the men and boys from the women and girls and set fire to the houses in the village.  The protagonist is then transported to a camp where the women are held in sexual slavery.  Girls as young as 12 are brutally and repeatedly gang raped by the soldiers. 'S' is then chosen by an army captain who 'saves her' for himself.  S is expected to dress up, put on make up and have dinner with the captain, as well as sleep with him.  Finally, she is released and escapes to Sweden where she claims asylum.  This is where the book by Drakulic begins.  S is refused an abortion since her pregnancy is too far through and she is forced to give birth. 

The plot of the film is roughly similar to that of In the Land of Blood and Honey,  and there are strong echoes of the Kunarac trial running throughout both films.  The movie is in Bosnian and was filmed in Macedonia.  Worth watching but warning, the sexual violence is extremely graphic. A de-brief may be necessary afterwards.  

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