Escape and friendship in Bosnia

By Nicole Kobie

In any given war, there are many dangerous places. The front lines are never fun, but the mine-strewn, trench-riddled area between them is even worse. In No Man’s Land, that’s exactly where Bosnian soldier Chiki finds himself. His fellow soldiers dead around him, he finds himself trapped in a trench in no man’s land.

Set in the 1993 Balkan conflict, the beautifully made and entirely entertaining No Man’s Land tells the story of one day of the war-complete with stalemates, crazed shootings, stupid peacekeepers and story-hungry reporters.

All these elements conspire against Chiki’s escape, including the arrival of two Serbian soldiers. Chiki shoots both, killing one and injuring the other, but not before they plant a mine under the body of Chiki’s fallen friend Cera.

Chiki and the Serb soldier Nino violently argue about who’s responsible for starting the war. Chiki wins, but only because he has a gun. They try to alert their respective sides of the strange situation but only end up getting shot at. The often humorous stalemate continues until Cera wakes up. Apparently, he wasn’t dead. Now, with Cera immovable on his back, the two men try to get desparately needed help.

During the Bosnia-Serbian conflict, the United Nations peacekeepers were the obvious impartial help. However, they’re immobilized when a UN commander would rather flirt with his secretary than put
UN’s "good" reputation on the line. One peacekeeper, Sergeant Marchand, goes in anyway and after the persistence of reporter Jane Livingston, eventually gets UN backing. However, neither UN help nor media attention guarantee the soldier’s salvation.

With the cast of characters Director Danis Tanovic uses, it’s hard to believe they’re even capable of fighting a war. The Bosnian soldiers get lost in fog, which is how Chiki ends up blown into a trench. The relationship between Nino and Chiki first evolves into an almost friendship. Unfortunately, because they both dated the same girl years before, their hatred is too deep-rooted to overcome. The UN is a joke-referred to as Smurfs throughout the film. The peacekeepers struggle with the warring sides, their own superiors and even language barriers to try and make a difference. Their uselessness is frustrating to everyone, even themselves. The press is portrayed no better-they’re vultures profiting from the fractured country’s torment.

While this could have been a dreary, and realistic film Tanovic creates a different world. His war is fought on beautiful emerald fields beneath a stunning blue sky. Rather than have violence and blood make his point, he uses black, biting humour. You laugh while watching No Man’s Land, but you also realize the point: war is useless. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but his method for showing it is perfect. Warring and violence do not solve problems but become unsolvable problems themselves. These days, it’s a point worth making. Tanovic obviously thinks war is a joke and not a very funny one at that. And after watching No Man’s Land, it’s hard to

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