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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (1) - Barrie Pattison on Death in Sarajevo

Smrt u Sarajevu / Death in Sarajevo  (France/Bosnia/Herzogovina, 2016, 85 minutes) 

Screens again at Dendy Opera Quays Saturday 11 June at 8.00 pm

Danis Tanovic comes from the heart of Film Festival/Ethnic broadcaster land and represents a kind of film that is losing ground to Saturday Night Fever and Apocalypse Now on SBS. Why the tax payer should fund showing Saturday Night Fever and Apocalypse Now, when Insurance Companies and the Fresh Food People are only too willing to bank roll them on the commercials, is frustrating. After the fate of Channel 44, SBS must feel the need to demonstrate their significance with viewer numbers. 

Tanovic's new Smrt u Sarajevu comes from the Boznia-Herzogovina film industry with which, on the other hand, we can't claim an over familiarity. 

The action kicks off with trim concierge Snezana Vidovic rejecting the eager kitchen hand with whom she’s just spent the night - in the house where he lives with his parents who won’t last forever - and making her way, accompanied by the snaking Stedicam, through the corridors of manager Izudin Bajrovic’s failing Sarajevo luxury hotel, which becomes a major character.   

The E.U.congress is scheduled and their inspector is rejecting the clapped out Olympic cutlery that V.I.P.s, including Bill Clinton, used in better days. No one, including the manager has been paid for three months, and the staff are going on strike. The children’s chorus of welcome is practicing in the lounge and has to be fed cheese sandwiches while visiting French V.I.P. Jacques Webber is rehearsing his speech watched on the CCTV cam, that shouldn’t be there, by the security guy who does lines of coke off the cell ‘phone he uses to argue with his wife about buying a new couch. 

Meanwhile on the roof a TV reporter is doing  interviews for her program on Balkan history (the real life authority even gets a name caption on screen). Next subject is Hadzovic, an agro descendant of the Arch Duke’s assassin. The discussion becomes heated to the point where she leaves her assistant to continue the recording and gets into an on-going rant with that “Chetnik Assassin” finally reaching to the stage where they seem likely to get it on. 

Everything of course goes pear shaped

The dispiriting recounting of Balkan history they jam in is the most interesting element. The personal stories aren’t bad but the everybody fails ending is anti-climactic and a downer.

Nice to see authoritative Webber (the Depardieu Cyrano) getting top billing. Performances are strong and the muted greenish colour gets by.

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