Published on February 8th, 2011 | by dinglesurf1
Review – As If I Am Not There
Think of great prisoner of war films and you may think of Bridge On The River Kwai or Schindler’s List, to name just a couple. True masterpieces of their genres but too often focusing on the male perspective of these awful atrocities. So what makes As If I Am Not There so unique is that this time, the focus is on the women.
The story follows Samira (Natasa Petrovic) who soon after taking her first teaching job in a rural village finds herself in the middle of the burgeoning Bosnian war. Enslaved into a concentration camp with only women and children (all the men being executed) by the Serbians, Samira is forced into a life of sexual servitude and humiliation. Soon she realises that her looks are her only chance of survival, but at what price to herself?
This is the first feature by Dublin director Juanita Wilson, who won an IFTA and was Oscar nominated for her debut short film The Door. And judging by this piece those wont be the only accolades she garners in her career. Her camera unflinching exposes all the brutalities of war. From mass genocide to mutilation to child rape – Disney, this is not! But while the subject matter itself is utterly horrific, the film is startlingly beautiful, shot in delicate golden hues, showing just enough of the barbaric acts to shock you without ever subverting into torture porn or like.
The whole film though hangs on the delicate shoulders of lead actress Natasa Petrovic, who’s glassy eyed performance hauntingly encaptures every moment of this young girl’s shattered life. She gives the film great credibility and is utterly believable in the choices that she makes while her life is constantly under threat.
Based upon the acclaimed novel by Slavenka Drakulic, itself derived from true stories revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, As If I Am Not There is a stark yet compelling look at the too often ignored underbelly of war. Provocative, but important work.
As If I Am Not There will be showing as part of The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival at Cineworld on 26th February at 17:00.