The only feature-length film to emerge from Bosnia and Herzegovina this year (it was shot on Beta, then, courtesy of a private fund, transferred to 35mm), “Greta” is the story of an elderly Jewish Yugoslavian academic who survived Auschwitz/Birkenau as a young woman and, half a century later, endured four years of Serbian shelling of her adopted Sarajevo. Docu makes some strong points comparing and contrasting two episodes of genocide/ethnic cleansing, but theater director Haris Pasovic’s boring pacing and simplistic juxtapositions weaken the account. Even more problematic is his overly reverential stance toward his subject. “Greta” should have some legs at Jewish and human rights fests and possible web spots.
A significant part of the film consists of one talking head. Greta, a sophisticated woman in a mitteleuropean silk blouse, relates her childhood in Novi Sad, the rounding up of Jews, her loss of family members, her problems with memory after the ordeal and her postwar plunge into academic architecture as a profession.
Unfortunately, Pasovic tritely intercuts shots of concentration camp crematoria and the Israeli memorial Yad Vashem during her recounting of her Holocaust experiences, and shots of Paris to illustrate her professional pursuits following the war. Glimpses of Greta cheerfully greeting shopkeepers and acquaintances on the streets of Sarajevo today seem deliberately set up to psychologically airbrush her persona.
Film is strongest when Greta explains her and her late Bosnian husband’s position once Serbian encirclement of beautiful Sarajevo turned into a full-time artillery barrage. She surprises with the observations that “I couldn’t compare it (the bombardment of Sarajevo) to a death camp,” since that seems to be Pasovic’s premise, and that the siege of Sarajevo was “more difficult to bear” than the internment years.
“This aggression has been concentrated on such a small area, while the rest of Europe enjoyed peace,” she notes. This is the tragedy of Bosnia, and, though this film doesn’t do it justice, these points tend to validate the disappointingly uneven enterprise.