The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Movie Review:
No Man’s Land

Jan 7, 2002

No Man’s Land is a film about the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, made by Bosnian director Danis Tanovic. It tells the story of three wounded soldiers who are trapped in a trench between enemy lines – Serbians on one side, Bosnian Muslims on the other. One of the soldiers is a Serb, the other two Muslims, and one of the Muslim soldiers is lying on a “bouncing mine” (“made in USA,” as a Serb soldier boasts), which will explode if he moves away from it.

The situation described here (enemy soldiers trapped in the same trench) is a familiar one. But this takes nothing away from the movie’s originality and the urgency of its message: in wars like this, the “enemy” soldier you are shooting at is somebody just like you. In Bosnia, people belonging to the three “different” ethnic groups – Serbs, Croats and Muslims – share a common language and culture. What separates them is religion (Serbs are Greek Orthodox Christians and Croats Roman Catholic, while Muslims are descendants of Bosnians who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule a few centuries ago). But that need not be significant in a society which is overwhelmingly secular and, especially in the cities, characterized by mixed marriages.

The movie gives some hints about the callous attitudes of those who called the shots during the war – whether Serb or Muslim commanders or officers of the U.N. “peacekeepers.” Tanovic doesn’t spare the media either: the actions of the journalists at all levels are guided by self-serving sensationalism, devoid of the slightest compassion towards their fellow human beings trapped in this massive human tragedy. All of this is done in a manner of natural, often humorous, storytelling – making its powerfully humane anti-war message all the more efffective.

Could Tanovic tell more about the war? Probably. Perhaps he could try to give the audience a better idea about how the war was started and dragged on by war chiefs on all sides who just wanted to grab more land for the country they wanted to run; how the “international community,” that is, the U.S. and other imperialist countries like France, Britain and Germany, not only appeased but actively supported these warmongers – which explains the role played by U.N. “peacekeepers” in Bosnia, so well-depicted in the movie.

Regardless of this, No Man’s Land is definitely worth seeing because it deals with a very real, very important topic so passionately and realistically.

No Man’s Land is not likely to play in many theaters in the U.S., but if you can find it in a theater or video store near you, see it.