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No Manís Land (Danis Tanovic) 2001 

Danis Tanovicís first film, No Manís Land, could easily have been titled Between Enemy Lines, since it is mostly set amid a battlefieldís front, and chooses to deem neither side ďthe good guysĒ. The film attempts to establish the same sort of savage political satire that colored films like Dr. Strangelove, and similarly employs a take no prisoners approach that aims to eviscerate everyone involved in its central conflict. In the film, both Bosnian and Serbian soldiers are trapped together in a ditch, within the sniping range of each otherís firing squads. Itís an excellent premise for a film, which makes it that much more disappointing that due to excessive glibness and tonal inconsistencies, the pieces never come together. 

Thereís much talk about the absurdity of war in the film, but the scenes that actually show combat are dispensed with a cold, gory precision that is meant to snap us out of the cuteness of the farce, and remind us that there are lives at stake. The problem with this is that the violent scenes are never blessed with the same sense of absurdity that drives the rest of the film, and as a result feel completely disconnected and shamelessly manipulative. As a result, the film isnít so much an indictment against battle, but one against bureaucracy. Tanovic chooses not to call into question the reasons behind the war, but instead snipes at easy targets such as the head of the UN, who is painted as a intrusive bumbler thatís only interested in creating the appearance of trying to help. Much of the filmís humor is tiresome as well, and resorts to calling up such stock attitudes as ďGermans are efficientĒ or ďthe press will do anything to get a storyĒ. 

In its attempts to call everyoneís bluff, No Manís Land doesnít do enough to acknowledge the reasons its conflict has arisen. As a film that could provide a uniquely Bosnian perspective on the war, it disappoints, since itís attempting, and failing, to achieve a degree of universality. Its condemnation of the press is ironic, since the film relies on the same prejudices that the media propagates in order to make us laugh, and even gives us a recap of the events leading up to the Bosnian/Serb clash thatís presented as a brief news story (it's a blatant contradiction that Tanovic decides we can learn from the news here). This is a sound bite satire for a war fought through them. Though itís admirable for not blaming one group, it instead blames the whole system, and even that feels too pat. The eventual, inevitable heavy-handed ending attempts to damn us, damn us all to hell for allowing such a situation to be created, but ultimately the only one responsible for perpetuating the mediaís distortion of the war is Tanovic himself. As a result, No Manís Land is a feeble attempt to satirize, since it seems to lack a genuine understanding of its subject. 



Jeremy Heilman