In order to recover the body of her son lost during the war in Bosnia, a grieving, but strong-willed Muslim woman, Halima, must track down her estranged niece, who we find carries a mysterious connection to him.
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Nancy Abdel Sakhi,
Ivan, a 36-year old ex-rock singer and a disillusioned war veteran who lost both legs in the recent Croatian Homeland War, discovers a dark family secret, which fundamentally changes his life he now wants to end.
Arsen A. Ostojic
After the end of the war in Bosnia, Halima, a good-natured peasant woman from a remote Muslim village in Western Bosnia, searches for the remains of her husband and her teenage son, who were taken by Serbian paramilitary forces and executed. Using DNA analysis, the UN Committee for Missing Persons manages to identify the remains of her husband in one of the mass graves, but the Committee still can't identify the remains of her son, since Halima refuses to give a blood sample for DNA testing. There is something that the Committee doesn't know, something that Halima is hiding from others: her beloved son wasn't actually her biological son. The story takes us back two decades ago, during the period of Yugoslavia, where we learn how Halima and her husband became adoptive parents, after fruitless efforts to have a child on their own. Along with that story, we follow Halima's path nowadays while she is searching for the biological mother of her son, the only person who can give a blood ... Written by
A tremendous Film about two mothers who share one son
By Alex Deleon, Los Angeles This film was viewed at the L.A. SouthEast European film festival (SEEFEST) in May 2013. "Halima's Path" is a minor key masterpiece that deals with post war trauma after the Bosnian civil war in two intertwined peasant families -- one Muslim, the other Christian. What makes this film so special apart from the gripping subject matter, is the overall esthetic conception, the brilliant cinematography, the authenticity of the settings (Satyajit Ray would have loved it) -- the absolute world class acting, and the direction, which, as one viewer remarked in a post screening Q and A, "puts Hollywood to shame". Balkan films from Romania, Serbia, Turkey, and even tiny Albania, have circulated in various festivals but Croatia hasn't had very much to offer until the emergence of Zagreb based director Arsen Anton Ostovic, who learned the trade at the NYU film school and has made two other remarkable features before this. Halima's tortuous Path -- on the way to identify the remains of her husband and son exhumed from mass graves -- is Nothing but heart rending as portrayed by actress Alma Prica in a towering performance that is almost too authentic to bear. This is a heavy drama with an intricate plot, many characters in complex kinship relations, and multiple interwoven flashbacks that are sometimes hard to sort out, but the direction is so skillful that the viewer is simply swept up and drawn along in one perfectly constructed scene after another to the shocking conclusion with a deftly touching cemetery coda. Every character is perfectly drawn and portrayed by an amazing ensemble cast, some Croatian, some Serbian, some Bosnian Muslim, and at least one Slovenian. The overall effect is transfixing even if slightly confusing at times, at least to outside viewers not so familiar with similar sounding names and reading the film through English subtitles.. "Halima's Path" is a stunner and jaw dropper, but it may take a second viewing to sort out all the details. Basically, the story is this: -- The film opens with a prequel to the main story in 1977. A title tells us this is western Bosnia where the population is mixed Moslem and Christian (Vlah). On a stormy night a pretty young Moslem woman, Safiya, comes running through the fields to the house of her aunt, Halima, to tell her she is two months late --pregnant - of course unmarried, and afraid her father will kill her if he finds out that the father-to-be is aChristian-- Moreover, she loves the guy! We'll think of something, says Halima. Next we see Safiya jumping off a ladder on the family farm trying to induce an abortion. Ineffective. Her father starts beating her to within an inch of her life with a whip when Slavomir, her handsome Serbian boyfriend shows up. He poleaxes the enraged father, Avdo, with a stick but has to flee when a son pulls a shotgun on him. Jafiya, badly battered, is kicked out and comes back to Halima, her aunt, Avdo's sister, for refuge. The stage is now set for the big secret that will be the fulcrum of the tale. We will later find out that after Safiya secretly gave birth after the failed abortion. Halima who was barren, secretly adopted her niece's child, Mirza, and raised him as her own. Slavomir who has been away in Germany for two years to make money returns in a fancy car to retrieve Safiya. When he asks about their baby Safiya lies and tells him it was stillborn, then runs off with him to raise a new family as a Christian wife in an all Serbian town.
Flash forward 23 years -- it is now the year 2000, five years after the end of the Bosnian war. In a series of momentary flashbacks we learn that both Halima's husband and son were carried off by Serbian soldiers and shot in an ethnic cleansing massacre. We can also see that one of the soldiers was young Slavo -- Under UN supervision mass graves have been exhumed, the bones carefully laid out in a warehouse mortuary and DNA or blood samples from surviving relatives are needed to identify the bones so they can be reburied properly according to Moslem custom. Salko, Halima's husband, Salko, has been identified but, since she was not the biological mother of Mirza her blood sample won't help. She has to find Safiya who ran off 22 years earlier and hasn't been heard from since....Avdo's wife, Nevzeta, who never agreed to Safiya's expulsion from the family, has heard some things on the grapevine ... Cut to Safiya, now "Sophia", and her family of three daughters somewhere on the Serbian side. Slavomir, who was once so clean cut, has been traumatized by his war experiences in the Serbian military, has become an alcoholic, has grown long hair and a beard, is constantly depressed and looks like Jesus ... Halima now a forlorn pathetic figure who knits sweaters for the dead to keep from going mad, is determined to find Safiya --- . . She will be assisted reluctantly by brother-in-law Mustafa (Brother of her deceased husband) who once despised her for her barrenness but has softened with age. What will happen when she does find Safiya/Sophia...? When director Ostojic remarked that Alma Prica is regarded as the best actress in Croatia and has been so for a long time, I asked him what American actress he would compare her to and the answer was immediate, Meryl Streep! - In any case this is a fantastic ensemble cast all around without a single glitch as far as the acting is concerned. "Halima's Path" is a Croatian Bosnian Slovenian co-production and a pristine example of cross border cooperation in a region that was so recently torn to pieces by a horrendous series of wars, now largely forgotten in the West.
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