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Esma's Secret

  • Film
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Time Out says

This highly promising debut – an emotionally intuitive, low-key realist drama from ex-documentary writer-director Jasmila Zbanic – won this year’s Golden Bear at Berlin under its original title, ‘Grbavica’, the name of a poor northern neighbourhood of Sarajevo. The centre of various brutal acts of ‘ethnic cleansing’, including rape, visited on local non-Serbs and Muslims during the disastrous siege of the early ’90s, it’s also the home of hard-pressed single mother Esma (Mirjana Karanovic), one face in a crowd of widows and war survivors gathered at a local support centre singled out in the opening scene. Esma’s in desperate need of the monthly handouts, but is equally reluctant to take the ‘talking cure’, and is chastised for her silence by an aid worker.

As Zbanic follows Esma’s story – her fiercely supportive, almost indulgent, relationship with her wilful, rebellious 12-year-old daughter Sara (the impressive Luna Mijovic), her fish-out-of-water efforts at waitressing in a raucous, gangster-owned bar and her subsequent relationship with one of the more sympathetic security-men – she gratifyingly resists the temptation to give her spikey heroine too fluent a voice or make her a mouthpiece for a generation, preferring to ground her ideas in the keenly observed minutiae of emotional and social realities. Underwriting and uneven pacing lend the film the odd clumsy patch, but overall it’s moving and relevant, and dignified by a superbly judged central performance by Karanovic.
Written by Wally Hammond

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 15 December 2006
  • Duration:90 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Jasmila Zbanic
  • Screenwriter:Jasmila Zbanic
  • Cast:
    • Mirjana Karanovic
    • Luna Mijovic
    • Leon Lucev
    • Kenan Catic
    • Jasna Ornela Berry
    • Dejan Acimovic
    • Bogdan Diklic
    • Emir Had`ihafizbegovic
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