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The Year After Dayton

Produced, directed, written by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. (Serbo-Croatian soundtrack)

Produced, directed, written by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. (Serbo-Croatian soundtrack)

In this simple but devastatingly revealing documentary, filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter takes a probing look at life among the citizens of Bosnia during the first year of the uneasy peace that followed the signing of the Dayton Accord in November 1995. Film is divided into four parts, each repping one of the four seasons and running approximately 50 minutes. This record will make potent TV fodder in coming months.

No politicians appear in the film, which concentrates on the civilian survivors of the bitter war. A few of the people who allow Geyrhalter to film them in the first section, “Spring,” reappear in subsequent seasons; others make more limited appearances.

Among the key figures are a widow who describes how she managed to cope with her young daughters after her husband was killed, an old Muslim shepherd with a tart sense of humor who regrets not being able to visit his friend in West Mostar unless he’s escorted by the Austrian film crew, a young boy who complains that UNIFOR soldiers kicked his soccer ball into an inaccessible place and won’t return it, a man who doggedly works at salvaging reusable bricks from the rubble of destroyed buildings, and an actor whose legs were blown off but who is glad he’s alive.

These and many others testify to the appalling tragedy of this once peaceful country, and most blame the situation on politicians and “those who underlined nationalities.” Many note that formerly Serbs, Croatians and Muslims lived peacefully as neighbors, but a young girl makes the point that although she wept when parted from her best friend, a Serb, she now never wants to see her again.

As the seasons, and the film, progress, tensions ease a little, though many of the subject’s houses may be claimed later by their original owners. Nobody quite knows what will happen, except that if UN forces leave, the war will probably start all over again.

Geyrhalter takes his time filming his subjects, displaying great sympathy and empathy by letting them carry on at their own pace. There’s no sense of urgency to the film, which may be too slow and detailed for some viewers, but will be hypnotic for others.

Camerawork and sound recording are outstandingly good.

The Year After Dayton

(AUSTRIAN -- DOCU)

Production: A Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion production, in association with Prisma Film and Bosna Film (Sarajevo), with the cooperation of OFR.

Crew: Camera (color), Geyrhalter; editor, Wolfgang Widerhofer; sound, Hrvoje Durasek; assistant director, Christoph Meissl. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Officina Veneziana), Aug. 30, 1997. (Also in Thessaloniki Film Festival.) Running time: 204 MIN.

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