WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – The scene is a literal no man’s land — a ravaged, desolate piece of turf between battle lines in the Bosnian War of the early 1990s. It’s there in a trench that two opposing combatants (one Bosnian, one Serb) trade threats, trash-talk and wait for nightfall while their commanding officers and UN forces pass the buck — and a third, wounded soldier lies perched atop a live land mine.
Like many of the most effective stories of war, writer-director Danis Tanovic’s 2001 “No Man’s Land (Nicija zemlja)” reduces the baroque tangles of ethnic and national conflict to their most vivid common denominator — the ground soldier who has more in common with his enemy than with the generals and “leaders” who brought him to this place. A favorite selection at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, the alternately tragic and (very darkly) comic feature would go on to win for Best Foreign Language Film at that year’s Golden Globes, as well as at the 2002 Academy Awards — an honor that the Bosnian-born filmmaker accepted on behalf of his battle-scarred country.
Actors Branko Duric, Rene Bitorajac, and Filip Sovagovic star as the three men in a trench — with Georges Siatides as a sympathetic French sergeant and Karen Cartlidge as a British reporter — when “No Man’s Land” returns to the big screen on the evening of Thursday, March 17; presented free of charge inside the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University.
The public-welcome screening is offered as part of South Central Eastern Europe: Legacies and Identities, a series of interrelated cultural events scheduled throughout the 2010-2011 academic year at Monmouth. It’s an eclectic program that also encompasses visual art, poetry (Andrei Codrescu and Monmouth U’s Mihaela Moscaliuc), dance (Tamburitzans), lectures and displays of rare books and artifacts.
The event is also the latest offering in the fourth annual Provost Film Series, organized by the Provost’s Office at Monmouth University, in conjunction with the Office of the Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives. A panel discussion, featuring Monmouth faculty members Dr. Marina Vujnovic and Dr. Bojana Beric — both natives of the former Yugoslavia — will follow immediately after the screening.
As Provost Thomas S. Pearson observes, “Some of the best international cinema of recent years has been coming out of Eastern Europe…it’s an area of the world in which a lot of nationalities are living together under the legacies of various empires, from the Ottomans to the Soviets.”
Commenting upon the committee’s selection of “No Man’s Land” for inclusion in the Provost program, Provost Pearson praises the film for its example of “characters who are thrown together in a difficult situation, and who work together to resolve that situation.”