"In the Land of Blood and Honey": An Anti-Movie Star Makes a Vanity Project

It's 1992, and Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and Danijel (Goran Kostic) are about to hook up in a Bosnian nightclub when they're interrupted by a bomb blast. Later, Ajla is one of dozens of women rounded up and bused to a detention camp where Muslim females are kept to satisfy Serbian male soldiers' apparently endless appetite for rape. Danijel is a commander at the camp and "protects" Ajla by not letting anyone else rape her. After she lets him fuck her in laughably stylized soft-focus, he teaches her how to escape. Later, at a different camp, she allows herself to be kept as his "Muslim whore." First-time director Angelina Jolie clearly aims to keep Ajla's allegiances ambiguous, and she devotes much screen time trying to humanize Danijel so that we might believe Ajla could love him or that he could change. The denouement that sorts it all out moves from predictable tragedy to ludicrous redemption; closing titles confirm that Jolie's motivating intent in making In the Land of Blood and Honey was activist rather than artistic. Jolie has constructed a persona as the anti-movie star, but in making a United Nations extra-credit project about the Bosnian war that pointedly criticizes the U.S. role in a conflict now safely in history's rearview mirror, Jolie has produced a sanctimonious vanity commercial for her own good intentions. That's about as Hollywood as it gets.

 
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