Esma's Secret Jasmila Zbanic

Esma's Secret Jasmila Zbanic
Esma’s Secret has such an important subject and is so close to the events it describes that I wish I liked it more. Still, this picking up of the pieces of the Yugoslav war is less a movie than a list of issues: the characters don’t have life beyond the one trait they’re handed and the sociological detail is blunt and lacks nuance. The "secret” of the title is of course, held by Esma (Mirjana Karanovic), who isn’t playing straight with her near-adolescent daughter Sara (Luna Mijovic). Though Sara believes her father was martyred in the war, her mother somehow can’t come up with the documentation that would support this and grant Sara a discount on a school trip. Any reasonably well-informed person can figure out what Esma is hiding from frame one but this would be a mere formality were it not for the rather stiff handling of the background information. Though it’s clear that Esma is a damaged person, writer/director Jasmila Zbanic is more for stating the case than evoking it with artistry — her handling of the characters, the desperate economic situations that surround them and the ghosts of war that fill their world are too obvious to stick as drama. Though technically the film is very informative about life in Sarajevo in the wake of the war, it doesn’t have a supporting view of people in general, and that means the information hangs in space with nowhere to go. It’s not a terrible movie, and it doesn’t make you feel like it’s trivialised the issues, but as art it misses the mark and fails to bring its urgent matters to life. (Mongrel Media)