June 8, 2006

Welcome to the War Zone

emira_stephen.jpgThe Cinecultist's Netflix queue these days has been a little clogged with Michael Winterbottom movies, as we're on a kick to see everything that's available from the English director. We've seen good things (Code 46) and slightly less good things by him (Nine Songs) but it's all been varied and all thought-provoking. Our most recent was his 1997 film, Welcome to Sarajevo with Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei.

We actually recall when this flick came out, probably because Sarajevo was a hot button subject at the time and we'd liked his previous film, Jude with Kate Winslet. However, we also remember we thought it sounded sorta heavy and we have an automatic aversion reaction to all things Woody Harrelson, so we avoided it at the time. Watching it recently on DVD, our initial bias wasn't too far off the mark but nearly 10 years after it's release, CC knows better what's good for us in terms of viewing habits and Welcome to Sarajevo is a thoughtful movie about an important subject.

Dillane plays Michael Henderson, an English journalist in Sarajevo covering the war. The city is under siege and his group of reporter friends (including Harrelson) are struggling to both get the real story from the war on their home news channels and to keep from getting killed. Both are quite a challenge. Henderson becomes emotionally attached to a group of orphans whose poignant stories he hopes will get them safe passage out of the war zone. He teams up with an aid worker (Tomei) to try to get one particular young girl, Emira, who he particularly feels for, in her convoy of children leaving the country. It's as much about the horrors of war, as the ways that people touched by the ordinary folks caught up in war can't help but get involved in their plight.

One of the most interesting parts of this movie came from noticing in the final title and from the credits that the young girl who plays Emira is actually named Emira and comes from Sarajevo. Actually, in the scene where the orphans tell their stories to Henderson's news camera, these are their actual lives they are recounting. In a way, you can see how Sarajevo couldn't help but touch Winterbottom and the rest of the filmmakers, even as they make a fiction film meant for entertainment. Though of course, this isn't your run of the mill entertainment then, it's a movie with a purpose. Not your usual summertime fare but certainly worth our 2 hours in front of the TV. Oh, and it's actually a pretty entertaining movie.

Posted by karen at June 8, 2006 10:45 PM