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No man's land

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

A lot can happen between the lines.

Tchiki (Branko Djuric) and Nino (Rene Bitorajac), a Bosnian and a Serb, are soldiers stranded in no man's land - a trench between enemy lines during the Bosnian war. They have no-one to trust, no way to escape without getting shot and a fellow soldier is lying on the trench floor with a spring-loaded bomb set to explode beneath him if he moves. Such absurdity would be comical if it weren't for the dire consequences.

Frustrated United Nations soldier, Sergeant Marchand (Georges Siatidis), tries to help despite orders to remain at his post. When journalist Jane Livingstone (Katrin Cartlidge) waylays the Sergeant while pushing for an exclusive scoop, she affects the unfolding of events and turns a news story into an international circus. The world's press wait for an outcome and no-one is willing to take action lest they accept responsibility. With a soldier still stuck with a bomb beneath him, Tchiki and Nino try to keep their humanity amidst the insanity of war.

Theatrical propaganda posters

No man's land image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film war Serbia Bosnia trench mine UN Peacekeeper politics sniper

Persons of interest

  • Branko Djuric .... Tchiki
  • Rene Bitorajac .... Nino
  • Georges Siatidis .... Sergeant Marchand
  • Katrin Cartlidge .... Jane Livingstone
  • Filip Šovagovic .... Cera
  • Serge-Henri Valcke .... Captain Dubois
  • Sacha Kremer .... Michel
  • Alain Eloy .... Pierre
  • Bogdan Diklic .... Serbian Officer
  • Simon Callow .... Soft
  • Tanja Ribic .... Martha
  • Branko Zavrsan .... Démineur
  • Danis Tanovic .... Screenwriter
  • Danis Tanovic .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Life at the bottom of the too hard basket.

The Balkans have been the site of battles for as long as people have lived there. Whenever there's been a war in Europe, there's been a war in the Balkans. Hatred and history, however distorted, go hand in hand. [Nice alliteration - Director of Intelligence] There's no solution to the myriad of problems involved there today other than the colonial solution: kill all the natives and send in the settlers. Fortunately, or unfortunately, contemporary politics do not allow such an old favourite.

No man's land is the entire situation put into 1½ hours of film. Don't think that just because the fighting has stopped that the question has been answered: it has only been deferred for a few more generations.

Danis (whose name can't be spelled correctly in standard HTML) has created a witty, scary, troubling, thought provoking film that shows in minute detail the value of warfare (ie nothing). He also lines up some of the contributing morons in his sites: the politicians, the journalists, the information companies, the weapons manufacturers and those who will just not let go of the past. The past happened in the past for a reason: so that you don't have to keep living it all over again. You can learn from your and others' mistakes and go forward. You don't have to hate complete strangers. You certainly don't have to go out and shoot them.

There's a moment of homophobia, which contributes nothing to the debate and detracts from the value of the film, in which Tchiki is disgusted on learning that an enemy soldier is attracted to men. The old Hollywood formula of homosexual = evil is not only incorrect but small-minded. Surely the advocacy of peace is the advocacy of peace for all? (The correct equations are "evil = your opinion of evil" and "homosexual = homosexual".)

Apart from that, No man's land is filled with wonderfully natural acting and some of the best fake accents you've ever heard, not to mention a truly European variety of languages. If you like war, you'll hate No man's land.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence)

Surveillance time

98 minutes (1:38 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 25 April 2002
DVD rental: 23 October 2002
VHS rental: 23 October 2002

Cinema surveillance images

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Director's notes
I remember that strange feeling when war started in Bosnia, when I would see a black bullet hole in a building or a crater made by a shell in a field. Imagine if someone imposed a black and white photograph on a van Gogh painting, and you will partly understand what one feels when seeing this. The disharmony was a kind of a visual shock. It turned me cold and left me feeling bitter and helpless.

This shock is something I have reproduced through my film. On one side, a long summer day - perfect nature, strong colours - and on the other, human beings and their black madness. And this long, hot summer day reflects the atmosphere of the film itself. Movements are heavy, thoughts are hard to grasp, time is slow, and tension is hiding - hiding but present. When it finally explodes, it is like fireworks - sudden, loud and quick. Panoramic shots of landscape become unexpectedly mixed with nervous details of action. It all lasts for a moment or two, and then tension hides again, waiting for the next opportunity to surprise. Time slows down again.

I wanted this film to be full of all different kinds of contrasts and disharmonies, but I wanted the outcome to be that disharmony and hate are unnatural, that they bring no solution. I read somewhere that love brings harmony to a conflict without destroying either side. Hate does the contrary. If hate were the ruling principle, there would be no opposition left in the world. But because fire and water exist, love must be the principle that rules the world.

Characters in this story look quite alike. They are simple people, almost antiheroes, caught in the jaws of war. A man on one side of the front line could easily be found on the other. Only his name would be different.

I am not trying to deny responsibility for the atrocities committed in the Bosnian war. I would never do something like that, because there were victims on one side and people who committed crimes on the other. But the point of my film is not to accuse. The story is not about pointing at those who did wrong. The point is to raise a voice against any kind of war. It is my vote against violence of any kind.

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