Review: ‘Belma’

"Belma" is a naive little pic about a Danish teenager who finds a new direction in his life when he meets a pretty refugee from the conflict in Bosnia. Agreeable but by no means incisive or memorable, pic's chief asset is a strong perf from Serbian actor Rade Serbedzija, star of the Oscar-nominated "Before the Rain."

“Belma” is a naive little pic about a Danish teenager who finds a new direction in his life when he meets a pretty refugee from the conflict in Bosnia. Agreeable but by no means incisive or memorable, pic’s chief asset is a strong perf from Serbian actor Rade Serbedzija, star of the Oscar-nominated “Before the Rain.”

Serbedzija plays Josip Papic, a widower who, in the tense opening sequence, negotiates a minefield with his daughter, Belma (Emina Isovic), in order to board a bus taking them away from the Bosnian conflict. They wind up as refugees living on a “floatel,” a floating hostel berthed in Copenhagen harbor.

Fifteen-year-old Rasmus (Simon Holk) lives with his divorced father, Erik (Jess Ingerslev), in an apartment over Erik’s antique shop. His sole interest is playing war games on his computer, and he’s saving money to buy a CD-ROM. When he meets Belma, it’s love at first sight, and soon he’s spending his savings on a pair of ice skates for her.

Naturally her father objects to her friendship with a Danish boy. Things change when a new arrival on board the boat turns out to be a former prison guard and torturer; Josip’s friends attack the newcomer and almost kill him, and Josip, though innocent, is arrested for being involved in the assault. It’s up to young Rasmus, in some far-fetched plotting, to help prove his new girlfriend’s father is innocent.

As written by Pascal Lonhay, the character of Rasmus is really too good to be true, and pic’s final stages are scarcely believable. It’s a pity, because the filmmakers clearly intended to make a positive statement about refugees from the Balkans, but in the end have come up with a tall tale that simply doesn’t hold water.

Performances are decent, though production values are on the modest side. Coincidentally, Serbedzija will play a similar role (refugee father with teen daughter) in the upcmoming Kiwi pic “Broken English,” which is expected to preem in Cannes.

Belma

(DANISH)

Production

A UIP (Denmark) release of an Arena Film/New Fiction Film production. (International sales: TV2 Sales/Arena Film, Copenhagen.) Produced by Mette Heiberg, Ole John. Executive producer, Ulrik Bolt Jorgensen. Directed by Lars Hesselholdt. Screenplay, Pascal Lonhay. Camera (color), Eric Kress; editor, Henrik Fleischer; music, Morten Olsen; sound (Dolby SR), Kristian Eidnes Andersen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 28, 1995. (Also in Gothenburg Festival; Berlin Film Festival -- Children's Section.) Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Rasmus ... Simon Holk Belma Papac ... Emina Isovic Josip Papac ... Rade Serbedzija Erik ... Jess Ingerslev Captain ... Borje Ahlstedt Annette ... Nastja Arcel Zoranovic ... Zdenko Jelcic
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