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Children Of Sarajevo Reviewed by Mark Adams

Aida Begic’s Children Of Sarajevo (Djeca) is a pas- sionately stark story of the strength of family, driven by an intense sense of honour and compas- sion as a young woman who has found strength in her religion tries to help her younger brother, who had previously lived in an orphanage. Prior to her first Cannes screening of the film,

Begic said to the audience that it was a shame she was “unable to bring a happier film to Cannes”, and while that may be the case, the drive of the film is the inner strength and determination that sees 23 year-old Rahima (an excellent Pikic) doing all she can — and against all the odds — try and keep what remains of her family together. Rahima and her 14-year-old brother Nedim

(Gagula) live a low-key life in a simple flat in Sara- jevo. After crime-prone adolescent years — which are implied but never really developed — Rahima has found solace in Islam, and hopes her brother will follow her example and find a better life. She works in the kitchen of a Sarajevo restau-

rant, retaining a polite and non-confrontational presence. But things slowly spiral out of control when she is called to Nedim’s school after he gets into a fight with the son of a prominent govern- ment official, and then discovers he is helping to courier a gun and documents. The incident leads Rahima to find out her

brother is dabbling on the edge of criminal activi- ties, but she is determined he should escape that


Bos Herz-Ger-Fr-Turk. 2012. 90mins Director/screenplay Aida Begic Production companies Filmhouse Sarajevo, Rohfilm, Les Films L’Apres-Midi, Kaplan Film International sales Pyramide, www. Producers Aida Begic, Benny Drechsel, Karsten Stoter, Francois d’Artemare, Semih Kaplanoglu Cinematography Erol Zubcevic Editor Miralem Zubcevic Main cast Marija Pikic, Ismir Gagula, Nikola Duricko, Stasa Dukic, Velibor Topic

life. Her inner strength begins to come to the fore — initially inexpressive and non-confrontational, she is also a woman determined to protect her brother, to the extent she confronts the official in the knowledge there are likely to be repercussions from the police. Marija Pikic is striking as the haunted Rahima.

The camera is often placed just behind her shoul- der and follows her through the bleak, war-torn streets of Sarajevo as she strides with a sense of purpose, barely reacting to the happenings around her. The film makes no attempt to reveal what

might have happened to her in the past, though it is clear her relationship with Nedim is less than perfect — she works hard and is rarely around — and he even comments at one point that he would rather have stayed at the orphanage. The story is intercut with news footage from the

Bosnian war — not exploitative or overly dramatic, but of scenes of children playing, singing and gen- erally trying to lead as normal a life as possible. Children Of Sarajevo ends on New Year’s Day with a measured and modest life-affirming moment of sister and brother bonding again.

Our Children Reviewed by Fionnuala Halligan

Our Children is called A Perdre La Raison in France, and viewers can quickly make the connection when its opening shots depict four small coffins being raised onto a plane bound for Morocco as a mother weeps in her hospital bed. It is immedi- ately clear Joachim Lafosse is about to tackle one of cinema’s — and society’s — last taboos: the increasing numbers of parents who murder their own small children. Much like the old people in Michael Haneke’s

Love, infanticide is a problem society cannot quite face in the eye, and many will prefer to pass on Our Children for just that reason. Those brave enough — this is without a doubt an emotional racking — will witness an intelligent and responsible treat- ment from the Belgian director, a deeply moving performance by Emilie Dequenne and a devastat- ing look at a young woman come undone. Inspired by a real-life case in Belgium — though

there are many similar stories worldwide from which Lafosse could have chosen — Our Children is not simply a story of a mother with post-natal depression. It is much more oblique and, like any family, much more complicated than that. Lafosse ratchets up the domestic drama to slowly force his principals into a position where the denouement — which is thankfully never depicted onscreen — is at least approaching a point where it can be under- stood. That is in no small part due to Dequenne’s


Belg-Lux-Fr-Switz. 2012. 112mins Director Joachim Lafosse Production companies Samsa Film, Versus Production, Les Films du Worso, Box Productions International sales Les Films du Losange, Producers Jacques-Henri and Olivier Bronckart, Jani Thiltges, Sylvie Pialat, Thierry Spicher Screenplay Joachim Lafosse, Matthieu Reynaert, Thomas Bidegain Cinematography Jean-Francois Hensgens Editor Sophie Vercruysse Main cast Niels Arestrup, Tahar Rahim, Emilie Dequenne, Baya Belal, Stéphane Bissot, Nathalie Boutefeu

(Rosetta) believably tragic performance as Murielle, a carefree woman from a relatively poor background who falls for Tahar Rahim’s charming Mounir. Lafosse’s camera discreetly observes Murielle

and Mounir as they make love and marry — the director is working at their level, making his camera complicit in what transpires throughout. Moroc- can-born Mounir is devoted to Dr Pinget (Are- strup), who has housed and brought him up and whom, it is later made clear, also married Mounir’s sister to give her residency papers. It is an uneasy, avuncular role that Arestrup underplays, and Lafosse holds back from making Dr Pinget alone culpable for what ultimately happens — though he holds all the financial and emotional cards.

Mounir and Murielle move in with Dr Pinget,

but it is a comfortable life that comes at a price. The autocratic Pinget and Mounir are obsessed with each other, although it is not an overtly sexual rela- tionship. They are the ‘we’ in ‘Our Children’. While they easily accommodate Murielle at the onset of the marriage, the claustrophobic set-up will not tol- erate the four children she delivers in a short space of time. She is trapped by the incessant demands of her

babies and toddlers, by Mounir’s growing indiffer- ence, by her own doubts of her abilities as a mother (reinforced by the casually bullying Pinget) and a crushing depression which he, as her family doctor, medicates.

May 24, 2012 Screen International at Cannes 7 n

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