Quo Vadis, Aida? Review

Quo Vadis, Aida?
As the Bosnian Serb army under murderous general Ratko Mladic (Boris Isakovic) occupies the town of Srebrenica in July 1995, translator Aida (Jasna Djuricic) tries to protect her family at the Potocari compound where the Dutch UN peacekeeping force has been left in an impossible position by their indifferent superiors. 

by David Parkinson |
Updated on
Release Date:

22 Jan 2021

Original Title:

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Having explored the agonies of Sarajevan women struggling to cope after being raped during the Bosnian war in Esma's Secret, writer-director Jasmila Zbanic turns to the Srebrenica genocide in this gut-punch reconstruction, which refuses to allow the 8,372 civilians massacred by the Bosnian Serb army in July 1995 to become mere statistics. In exposing the crimes of General Ratko Mladic, however, Zbanic also highlights the role played by the hapless Dutch peacekeeping force that was all but abandoned by both its UN superiors and the diffident world powers who had allowed a fragmenting Yugoslavia to descend into a series of bloody civil wars.

Despite the shocking nature of the deteriorating situation, Zbanic avoids resorting to mawkish melodramatics

By focusing on teacher-turned-translator Aida (Jasna Djuricic), Zbanic is able to humanise the atrocity by showing how she is forced to make choices that impact upon her neighbours in order to protect the lives of her husband and adult sons. The resourceful tenacity shown by Aida contrasts with the jobsworthy impotence of the Dutch commanders and the ruthless, self-mythologising cynicism of Boris Isakovic's Mladic, who poses as a fair-minded liberator who offers bread and sweets to those sheltering in the safe zone before implementing his pitiless policy of ethnic cleansing. Yet, despite the shocking nature of the deteriorating situation, Zbanic avoids resorting to mawkish melodramatics and uses shrewdly observed details to remind the audience that the majority of the victims are ordinary men and boys.

To some extent, the picture's impact depends upon Zbanic conveying the scale of the calamity, which is chillingly achieved by the shot of thousands of helpless refugees waiting for their fate to be decided miles away by faceless, unconcerned cowards. But the restless immediacy of Christine Maier's camerawork enables her to linger on the human elements of a history-shaping event, whose escalating sense of inevitability is unflinchingly captured by Jaroslaw Kaminski's pacily precise editing.

This study in chaos and calculation not only makes for harrowingly compelling viewing, but it also exposes the apathy of an international community that simply turned the other way.  
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