Today: February 21, 2024
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As If I Am Not There

Based on true experiences that came out of the Bosnian War of the nineties and adapted from the novel by Croatian journalist Slavena Drakulic, Juanita Wilson’s As If I’m Not There is a powerful account of the personal injustices inflicted on a group of woman, told from the perspective of one dealing with the aftermath.

Based on true experiences that came out of the
Bosnian War of the nineties and adapted from the novel by
Croatian journalist Slavena Drakulic, Juanita Wilson’s As If I’m Not There is a powerful account
of the personal injustices inflicted on a group of woman, told from the
perspective of one dealing with the aftermath.

When civil war
breaks out in the region, local schoolteacher Samira (Natasha Petrovic) is hoarded onto a bus with the village’s other
woman and sent to a Bosnian Concentration Camp. Soon she realizes she is part
of a separate “rape camp”, where women are violated and sexually assaulted for
the soldier’s pleasure each evening.

It’s an obvious statement to say that Wilson’s film, and the
book, is a personal and powerful tale of tragedy, monstrous inhumane acts and
ultimately some form of release.

However, what separates As
If I’m Not There
from other worthy films with a similar theme are the
cinematic touches which linger in the memory. The fly on the wall, helplessly
watching as Samira is gang-raped by brutes, the butterfly clinging for life on
a dead, withering branch, and those silent moments as the women wait to be
disrupted by violent soldiers.

For all her worthy intent though, Wilson’s film suffers from
a lack of personal engagement. Petrovic, though excellent in her debut role, ­switches
from bright, sparky schoolteacher to submissive wreck a little too quickly,
while her position as the Captain’s first choice of lady and near-confidante is
a relationship only half explored. Why does she receive special treatment? Why
is he and his men doing what he clearly knows to be wrong?

In the midst of the anguish, her return to the other ladies
in the camp each night only serves to show how under-developed other characters
are; no doubt each with a similarly harrowing tale to tell.

Which
means As If I’m Not There, though
well-produced, feels more like a film that needs to be told rather than one
that demands it be watched. Petrovic though is destined for brighter tales.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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