Last night I watched a movie I picked up from the library, and I can’t stop thinking about it. ‘Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams’ is directed by Jasmila Zbanic and features two remarkable actresses not recognizable to most Americans – including me. On August 30, I posted a blog (Remembering War) wondering about the lives of women after the war in Bosnia and this movie was almost like a poignant response to my musing. Set in Grbavica, a Sarajevo neighborhood held by the Serbs during the war – essentially creating a front line smack dab in the middle of what was once considered the most diverse and cosmopolitan of cities in Bosnia.
The movie takes place post-war. Esma is an impressive single mother of Sara, a lively 12 year old girl. Both actresses make these characters riveting. Sara has been raised with, what becomes clear, is the dubious tale that her father died a Bosnian war hero. As children always do, Sara knows she is not being told the truth and pushes her mother for answers. Finally, in a potent climax, Esma tells Sara how she was conceived as a result of countless rapes in a prisoner of war camp. The ugly violence of her beginning only makes the portrait of this mother-daughter relationship more incredible — not cloying, but like the gut punch only love can deliver.
My daughter became increasingly drawn into the story and finally, abandoned her computer-chat to watch with me. At the end of the movie, she said she was a little confused, perhaps because she came in to the story late, but I also imagine she could not fathom such places existed or of the hideousness of rape being used as a weapon of war. In a snapshot, to try to keep her usual short-lived interest in my war- stories, I told her a little bit more and pointed out the flash of yellow building in one of the last scenes in the movie, as the Holiday Inn where her Dad courted me so many years ago. Finally, we believe they will move beyond the ugliness of this terrible secret because their mother-daughter love trumps all. I love that and know it to be true.