Movie Magazine International

Welcome to Sarajevo

UK - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

"Welcome to Sarajevo" is set in 1992, when the people who decide these things ranked it as the 13th most dangerous place on earth. To give you an idea why it made the list, there's one of Sarajevo's favorite games "Is There A God?" A game that's played anytime anyone sets foot out of doors or steps in front of a window. To bring that point home, the film opens with a wedding procession that turns into a funeral cortege.

I never want to visit anywhere that makes the top ten.

The film focuses on two people, a journalist, Henderson, and the orphan he's determined to save. Henderson is part of the roving band of international reporters that roam Sarajevo in search of the latest carnage. They're like a band of tourists in Satan's version of Disneyland, snapping pictures and posing in the ruins. The orphan, nine-year-old Emira, is housed in an orphanage stuck on the border between two warring factions. Henderson abandons the code of journalistic detachment when he sees a glimmer of hope and trust in her stoicism.

He accompanies a group trying to get the orphans out. Harder than it sounds. The bus transporting them must cross each faction's checkpoint between the orphanage and safety. You'd think whatever differences they might have, they'd agree about saving children. You'd be wrong. And as you watch in disbelief this flight to safety become as harrowing as any war zone, remember that this is a true story.

There are fine performances, particularly Stephen Dillane as Henderson. He's understated, using only eyes that have been wounded by seeing too much bloodshed. Woody Harrelson, whose part is much smaller than his star billing, is perfect as the stereotypical Amercian gonzo reporter. And there are unexpected, quiet moments that crystallize the desperation of life under siege. As when, six friends share three eggs with a reverence and awe that make it a sacrament.

As the people of Sarjevo are slaughtered by each other, "Welcome to Sarajevo" intercuts shots of real politicians like Bush and Major, mouthing platitudes. You just wanna smack 'em. And maybe weep for humanity.

© 1997 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 11/26/97

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