A Film with Impact: No Man's Land
January 12, 2009
One evening in February 2002, eight months after I had left the Republic of Macedonia, the former state of Yugoslavia, I sat in a cinema in Vancouver and watched No Manís Land, a sarcastic version of the Bosnian war. Without heavy land battles or tons of realistic blood and guts bursting out of bodies, the filmís director (also the screenwriter), Danis Tanovic, brilliantly displays the absurdities of war taking place in a trench with two enemy soldiers. Their dialogue made me laugh, but brought me profound sadness for the people of the Balkan Peninsula at that time. In the darkness, I could not help thinking about the wars in Kosovo and Macedonia during the days that I had been there.
At the beginning of the film, a group of Bosnian soldiers are unexpectedly shot by Serbians. The only Bosnian survivor, Ciki, finds a temporary shelter in a trench between two front lines and later encounters the Serbian soldier, Nino. Soon, they find themselves in an awkward situation; neither of them can safely creep back to their own side without being shot. Under fire from the Serb army, they argue about who started the war. They blame each other for initiating the war and destroying the beauty of their countries. Neither of them wants to take the responsibility of the terrible consequence of war. The conflict is soon settled by Cikiís rifle. Sometimes, Nino would win the arguments when he is able to grab the gun. The conflicts between the two men completely reflect the absurdities of war.
In a war, no matter who the invader or defender is, every participant kills, burns, or even rapes in a direct or an indirect way. War creates hundreds and thousands of widows, widowers and orphans. No one is a winner. Even the people who live outside the wars boundaries are affected.
I have witnessed the tragedies caused by the war. In Macedonia, I used to have a masseur, who had graduated from medical school with a Doctoral degree. She never got to practice due to the ramifications created by the war. She learned a useful skill and became a masseur. I still remember the feeling I had with her. It was difficult to reach complete ease during my massages, for I knew I was taking the advantage of her situation due to the war. The ironic part is that she tried to comfort my feelings of guilt because my guilt could never fill up her pocket.
She was not alone. During that period of time, many Macedonian people had the same difficulties. They had not prepared for a divided Yugoslavia or a new Macedonia. There were not enough work opportunities in the new system. Some of them were luckily employed by UN Preventive Deployment Force or missions as interpreters or drivers, but they soon lost their jobs when these foreigners ended their projects. Most of them had been affected by the gap between the communismís centrally planned economy and the capitalismís market economy. I do not mean that they would get rid of their inability to find employment during economic transformation but the pains would be milder. If there were no wars, they would have a better chance to develop their careers, dreams and personal life.
Almost eight years have passed, but I still feel the intensity of the impact of No Manís Land. I appreciate Tanovicís efforts to display a microcosm of war in a trench. From time to time, these two enemiesí dialogue mixes up with my own personal memories of the people I met in Macedonia. They remind me of the meaninglessness of war and make me stand strongly against it.