The White Fortress (Tabija) @ Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Bosnia-Canadian co-production directed by Igor Drljaca which treads over the territories of young love and fish out of water. The White Fortress or Tabija had its world premiere at this year’s Berlinale and continues to travel the film festival circuit. Now to be screened at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Drljaca was bornin in Bosnia and wanted to make a film that reflected today’s post-war Sarajevo.

Teenager Faruk (Favle Cemerikic – Stitches), due to a chance encounter, meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. He is an orphan who lives with his sick grandmother in a poor part of Sarajevo and searches out scrap metal he can sell for money. To supplement that meager income he also participates in some petty crime. Mona (Sumeja Dardagan – first film) comes from a well-off family that wields some political power. Opposites attract they say and that is what happens here.

Despite living an enviable existence, Mona dreams of getting out from under her family’s thumb. Home is not exactly a warm and loving place for her. So when she meets Faruk, she sees someone who can show her a different way to live. They fall for each other, but that is not all that is going on here.

Because of the life situation of the two teenagers, a romance between the two would not be in the cards. Not typically in Sarajevo. They don’t usually even meet. Through this storyline, director/writer Drljaca is attempting to engage in a dialogue about what ails Sarajevo today. The fact that ethnic identity (which is tied to financial status) is seen as more important than anything else. A means of dividing people. How unless you belong to a certain group that your future is not a hopeful one. With no or little means of changing that either. Rather ingenious how all this information to most about Bosnia is ingrained in a romantic tale. You learn about a country without really noticing.

It is an accomplished film. A clever mix of old and modern. The emotions involved are varied and wide. From poignant moments to ones in which character’s motives and beliefs are fleshed out. We understand and emphasize what is going on. Two stars emerge here – the director and young actor Favle Cemerikic, who turns in a very mature performance.

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