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Mgm Sarajevo — Man, God, the Monster

The collective work of four Bosnian directors who shot in Sarajevo late last year, "MGM Sarajevo -- Man, God, the Monster" will, by its very nature, attract the attention of everyone concerned with the war in Bosnia. This unique documentary offers firsthand information as it portrays the tortured capital, Sarajevo. Strangely, however, it is less emotionally compelling than many TV reports from war correspondents. Its main niche will nonetheless be Western TV.

The collective work of four Bosnian directors who shot in Sarajevo late last year, “MGM Sarajevo — Man, God, the Monster” will, by its very nature, attract the attention of everyone concerned with the war in Bosnia. This unique documentary offers firsthand information as it portrays the tortured capital, Sarajevo. Strangely, however, it is less emotionally compelling than many TV reports from war correspondents. Its main niche will nonetheless be Western TV.

The film was made by the Sarajevo Group of Authors (SAGA), which has been a rallying point for the city’s intellectuals since the siege began in April 1992.

“Man, God, the Monster” edits three separate films together in a single, multi-visioned portrait of Bosnia. The most engrossing and anguishing segments come from Ademir Kenovic and Ismet Arnautalic’s “The Monster’s Confession,” in which a 21-year-old Bosnian Serb who fought with the Serbian Chetnik aggressors confesses to his war crimes in front of the camera, seemingly days before he is to be executed. His re-enactment of how he slit throats and raped prisoners is all the more bloodcurdling for being told so matter-of-factly. “Others did worse things” is his line of defense, though he does admit to having a recurring nightmare about a man he slaughtered like a pig.

Pjer Zalica’s “Godot-Sarajevo” is a fairly straightforward account of how Susan Sontag came to Sarajevo in 1993 and staged a production of “Waiting for Godot.” There is little of interest in Sontag’s statements (mostly about the play) or the actors’ rehearsals beyond the fact that the play took place at all. One thesp states that the sense of the play is really “waiting for Clinton” to take military action that would save the city.

Mirsad Idrizovic’s “Personal Affairs” accounts for the bulk of the film. People patch holes in their broken windows, stand in line to get water and dodge bombs as little kids happily sled down the empty streets. There are moments of savoring a rare hot chocolate and a cigarette that bring home the privations under which people live.

What emerges strongly is the filmmakers’ enormous desire to show the outside world what they are living through — not only to propagandize the urgent need for military aid but to overcome an unbearable sense of isolation.

Pic mixes the normal, the banal and the theatrical with sheer horror, leaving a feeling of the war’s absurdity. Only a few images are completely new to those who have watched years of TV news reports. Nor is there a solid underlying structure. The film plays mainly on contrast, not only in its visuals but, quite successfully, in a peppy selection of music with a strong, lively beat that gives the images a new twist.

Mgm Sarajevo -- Man, God, the Monster

(MGM SARAJEVO -- COVJEK, BOG, MONSTRUM; BOSNIAN-DOCU

Production: Produced by Ismet Arnautalic, Ademir Kenovic for SAGA Prods. (Sarajevo). Directed by Arnautalic, Mirsad Idrizovic, Kenovic, Pjer Zalica.

Crew: Camera (color/b&w), Ahmed Imamovic, Milenko Uherka, Mirsad Herovic, Miso Knezevic, Sulejman Klokoci; editors, Theodoros Koutsoulis, Almir Kenovic, Oliver Todorovic; post-production, Dana Rotberg. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 13, 1994. Running time: 93 MIN.

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