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Set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War that tore the Balkan region apart in the 1990s, In the Land of Blood and Honey tells the story of Danijel (Goran Kostić) and Ajla (Zana Marjanović), two Bosnians from different sides of a brutal ethnic conflict.
Danijel, a Bosnian Serb police officer, and Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim artist, are together before the war, but their relationship is changed as violence engulfs the country. Months later, Danijel is serving under his father, General Nebojsa Vukojevich (Rade Šerbedžija), as an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army.
He and Ajla come face to face again and as the conflict takes hold of their lives, their relationship changes, their motives and connection to one another become ambiguous and their allegiances grow uncertain. In the Land of Blood and Honey portrays the incredible emotional, moral and physical toll that the war takes on individuals as well as the consequences that stem from the lack of political will to intervene in a society stricken with conflict.
“I wanted to make a film that would express, in an artistic way, my frustrations with the international community’s failure to intervene in conflicts in a timely and effective manner. I also wanted to explore and understand the Bosnian War, as well as broader issues such as women in conflict, sexual violence, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the challenge of reconciliation.
“It was the deadliest war in Europe since World War II, but sometimes people forget the terrible violence that happened in our time, in our generation, to our generation.” With this in mind, Jolie began to write what became the script for In the Land of Blood and Honey, which she would eventually direct.
For almost five decades after World War II, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina formed part of Yugoslavia, alongside the Republics of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, and the semi-autonomous Serbian provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. During this time, a rich web of ethnic and religious identities made Bosnia’s population of 4 million one of the most diverse in Europe.
Bosnian Muslims formed the largest part of the population, followed by Serbs, Croats, and other groups. All spoke the same language, and intermarriage was common. The Bosnian War erupted in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs, backed by the Yugoslav Army, occupied towns and cities in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina and laid siege to Sarajevo, the capital, in an attempt to carve out a separate and ethnically pure “Republic of Serbs.”
The war would become the most devastating conflict in Europe since World War II. Jolie knew that this project was one that had to be treated with the proper respect and delicacy. “I went to people in the various governments, people in the international community, the UN and journalists who covered the war, and I asked, ‘Is this right?’
But the most important voices were the people from the area, the actors. They lived through the war. Although the people who covered the story — international journalists, international politicians — had important views, the people who were on the ground, whose families were affected, who were shot at, who were made refugees — they were the ones that I was the most nervous to send the script to and whose opinion I most valued.”
In the Land of Blood and Honey will be available in theaters December 23.