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As If I Am Not There (2010)

 |  Drama  |  4 March 2011 (Ireland)
7.3
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A harsh dose of cinematic realism about a harsh time-the Bosnian War of the 1990s-Juanita Wilson's drama is taken from true stories revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal in ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Samira (as Natasa Petrovic)
...
The Captain
...
Jasmina
Sanja Buric ...
The Nurse
Irina Apelgren ...
Alisa
Zvezda Angelovska ...
Halida (as Zvezdana Angelovska)
Nikolina Kujaca ...
Mirsada
...
Doctor
Angela Stojanovska ...
Samira's Sister
Zoran Trajkovski ...
Samira's Father
Sofija Kunovska ...
Samira's Mother
Elpida Pakovska ...
Village Neighbour
Ivo Stojanovski ...
Village Neighbour's Husband
Filip Pesov ...
School Boy
Jana Mircevska ...
School Girl
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Storyline

A harsh dose of cinematic realism about a harsh time-the Bosnian War of the 1990s-Juanita Wilson's drama is taken from true stories revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Samira is a modern schoolteacher in Sarajevo who takes a job in a small country village just as the war is beginning to ramp up. When Serbian soldiers overrun the village, shoot the men and keep the women as laborers (the older ones) and sex objects (the younger ones), Samira is subjected to the basest form of treatment imaginable. Written by Palm Springs Internation Film Festival

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4 March 2011 (Ireland)  »

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Ireland's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012. See more »

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opportunistic and slight
9 March 2011 | by See all my reviews

Quite a dreary choice of material - in keeping with the director's earlier work: a film about wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferers (producer); the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster (short); and now this, a film about the Serbian sex-camps during the Bosnian war. Possibly a cynical mind at work here, choosing material that is sure to garner liberal, politically correct attention.

The fact that this is Juanita Wilson's second film shot in a language other than her own suggests a fear on the director's part, or rather an acknowledgment of an inability to grapple with speech and all the dramatic possibilities involved in dialogue. Likewise this film's extremely laconic nature excludes so much about the central character and her relationships, her survival instinct, that might potentially have been explored and clarified. The film unfolds in a series of almost mute scenes that appear to lay claim to documentary significance. It all seems lazy and earnest; and no matter that there are moments of dread, small points of freighted resonance, minor visual notes, this does not make for a satisfactory cinematic experience.

As for the heroine - why she made no attempt to conceal herself from the enemy, or better again to flee from danger, is a mystery compounded by her entering into a relationship with the chief of her captors. This morbid fantasy of imprisonment, of Stockholm Syndrome embraced, seems a minor trope (cf Emma Donoghue's novel "Room" - again a cynically opportunist choice of subject) without originality or resonance.

To hide behind one's joyless subject matter, in a calculated attempt at rendering one's work, one's sensibility and aesthetic, unassailable, is a product of dubious self-regard. The film titles which Ms Wilson is connected with "Inside I'm Dancing" and "As If I Am Not There" signal an unease with herself and her place in the world. If she had been bold enough or rather contrary enough to question the political verities of the Yugoslavian conflicts then we might be in a better position to judge her abilities. Going on the work here presented we struggle to come to terms with an anxiously anodyne outlook. Perhaps next time if she has the stomach or the wit or imagination for it she might attend to contemporary Ireland rather than run off and take shelter behind another nation's traumas.


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