(Played in Competition for the Palme D’or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival)
Based on Natasha’s Story by Michael Nicholson, Welcome to Sarajevo is about a British reporter who is reporting the war in Sarajevo where he encounters an orphanage as he hopes to save the life of a girl he meets. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the film is among one of the first features film to be created about the Bosnian war in the early 1990s. Starring Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Fox, Goran Visnjic, and Emily Lloyd. Welcome to Sarajevo is a chilling yet mesmerizing film from Michael Winterbottom.
It’s 1992 as the Serbians try to wreak havoc on Sarajevo where ITN reporter Michael Henderson (Stephen Dillane) and his cameraman Gregg (James Nesbitt) are covering the battle where an American reporter named Flynn (Woody Harrelson) walks in the middle of the battlefield. While Henderson is joined by producer Jane Carson (Kerry Fox) and reporter Annie McGee (Emily Lloyd), he still has to contend with the competitive Flynn for a story where they gain a local named Risto (Goran Visnjic) to translate and drive them through town. There, Henderson comes across an orphanage in ruins where he meets a nine-year-old girl named Emira (Emira Nusevic) who is among the many orphans who are lost in the war.
Feeling compelled to tell reveal what is going on in Sarajevo, Henderson makes the orphanage his story as he wants to help save the children. When a United Nations aid worker named Nina (Marisa Tomei) arrives, she reveals that she can only help some of the kids to be transported to Italy. Henderson makes a deal to have Emira be part of the bus transport as he and Gregg join Nina on the treacherous journey to the boat that will evacuate the children to Italy. Though the journey was tough due to an encounter with a group of Chetnik troops who end up taking some of the children back. Though the remaining group was able to reach the ship, Henderson decides to take Emira to England to live with his wife (Juliet Aubrey) and children as he returns home.
Months later, Henderson receives a call from Carson about Emira’s mother (Vesna Orel) who is still alive and wants Emira back home. Henderson returns to Sarajevo to deal with the matter with help from Risto and a hotel concierge named Zeljko (Drazen Sivak) where they meet Emira’s uncle (Vladimir Jakanovic) who reveals what had happened. Though Henderson was able to find Emira’s mother, he wonders if giving Emira back to her mother would be the right thing as Sarajevo is becoming more undone by war.
The film is essentially a war drama where a news reporter covering the Bosnian war as he encounters an orphanage where he goes beyond the role of a reporter to save the life of one child. Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce creates a story that is about a war where a reporter is among a group of many trying to tell the world what is going on. Though it feels new and the world doesn’t seem to understand what is happening, his discovery of an orphanage that is in the frontline of this battle has him telling the world what is going on prompting the United Nations to get involved though things eventually become complicated due to political issues. At the center of this story is a reporter who feels that something has to be done as he would end up encountering more disturbing images of war. Boyce’s script does play to that drama while bringing insight into the chaos that is happening for the characters to be involved in.
Michael Winterbottom’s direction is truly engaging for the way he creates the film as if he is reporting what is happening as he utilizes news footage, video camera looks, and other stylistic shots to display what is going at a hotel in Sarajevo. Shot on location in Sarajevo and parts of Croatia, there is an added realism to the way Winterbottom presents the film as he always have the camera center a world where it looks like it’s the worst place in the world. With some hand-held camera work to display some of the film’s intense moments, Winterbottom always maintain suspense to let it play out as if something is going to happen. Notably the film’s opening credits sequence where an upcoming wedding ceremony is marred by gunfire as it definitely sets the tone for the film. Overall, Winterbottom creates a truly intense and hypnotic war drama that reveals the chaos that was happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s.
Cinematographer Daf Hobson does excellent work with the film‘s very vibrant and colorful cinematography for many of its exterior settings while creating a more low-key look for the film‘s interior scenes at the hotel as well as video-camera look for some of the news footage that is shot. Editor Trevor Waite does incredible work with the editing in utilizing rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s battle scenes along with inter-splicing news footage with the fictional footage shot in the film. Production designers Mark Geraghty and Kermal Hrustanovic, with set decorator Constantin Nikolic and supervising art director Terry Pritchard, do wonderful work with the look of some of the hotel interiors including Ritso‘s apartment that is filled with lots of records and books.
Costume designer Janty Yates does nice work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual while some of it includes uniforms that soldiers wear. Makeup/hair designer Anne Oldham does good work in the look of Emira from her more short-hair look in Sarajevo to a more girlish look once she starts to live in England. Sound editor Peter Baldock does amazing work with the sound to capture the sense of terror that occurs in battle from the gunfire and explosions to the way it’s sound at the hotel. The film’s score by Adrian Johnson is superb for the way it plays out the sense of ruin that happens through its low-key orchestral score. Music supervisors Laurence Kaye and Steve Lindsey create a soundtrack that is a wide mix of music ranging from a darkly-comic use of Bobby McFerrin‘s Don‘t Worry Be Happy along with a compelling use of Remo Giazatto’s Adagio in G Minor for a poignant moment in the film The rest of the soundtrack features a wide mix of music from acts like Blur, the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, Teenage Fanclub, and Massive Attack to play out the music of the times.
The casting by Simone Ireland and Vanessa Pereira is fantastic for the ensemble that is created as it includes small but notable appearances from Juliet Aubrey as Michael’s wife, Vladimir Jakanovic as Emira’s uncle, Vesna Orel as Emira’s mother, Drazen Sivak as the friendly hotel concierge Zeljko, and Gordana Gadzic as the orphanage manager Mrs. Savic. Other noteworthy small roles include Emily Lloyd as a fellow reporter who uncovers some dark secrets about the war, James Nesbitt as a comical yet thrill-seeking cameraman, and Marisa Tomei in an incredible performance as a sympathetic United Nations aid worker who tells Michael Henderson about what he’s doing for Emira is illegal.
Emira Nusevic is wonderful as the child Emira who is just trying to deal with the chaos of her home as she seeks a way to leave. Kerry Fox is terrific as producer Jane Carson who tries to deal with all of the stories that needs to be told as she also becomes very friendly with Ritso. Goran Visnjic is great as the Bosnian Ritso who guides Michael into the world of Sarajevo while revealing the increasing dangers that is happening when Michael returns from Britain. Woody Harrelson is excellent as the brash American reporter Flynn who revels into the world of danger while bringing some humor to the situations in the film. Finally, there’s Stephen Dillane in a marvelous performance as Michael Henderson who decides to go beyond his role as a reporter to save a child’s life due to everything he encounters in this horrific war.
Welcome to Sarajevo is an extraordinary yet harrowing film from Michael Winterbottom. Armed with an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Fox, Emily Lloyd, James Nesbitt, and Goran Visnjic. It’s a film that really goes into deep into the terror that was happening during the Bosnian war in the early 1990s. It’s also a film that really serves as a great historical piece to explain some of what was happening and why the fighting occurs from an outsider’s perspective who know little about this war. In the end, Welcome to Sarajevo is a wonderfully stylish yet compelling film from Michael Winterbottom.
Michael Winterbottom Films: (Rosie the Great) - (Forget About Me) - (Under the Sun) - (Love Lies Bleeding) - (Family (1993 TV film)) - (Butterfly Kiss) - (Go Now) - (Jude) - I Want You - (With or Without You (1998 film)) - Wonderland (1999 film) - The Claim - 24 Hour Party People - In This World - Code 46 - 9 Songs - Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - The Road to Guantanamo - A Mighty Heart - Genova - The Shock Doctrine (2009 film) - The Killer Inside Me - The Trip (2010 film) - (Trishna) - (Everyday) - The Look of Love - (The Trip to Italy) - (The Face of an Angel)
© thevoid99 2012
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