Quo Vadis, Aida? – Review

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“Where are you going, Aida?” That’s the translation of the title. This film asks questions, not answers. Because in the tragedy presented by the winner of the Best International Feature Film nomination (Bosnian representative) at the 2021 Academy Awards, there was no answer. Only the wounds of the survivors will never heal, and a history that can only be mourned, regretted, or condemned, irreversibly. Best Movie Site

The tragedy that was raised was the massacre of more than 8000 Srebrenica citizens (mostly adult men and teenagers) in July 1995, during the outbreak of the Bosnian War. The director / scriptwriter Jasmila Žbanić, who previously addressed the issue of rape in the same war through Grbavica (2006, also represented Bosnia at the Oscars despite failing to win a nomination), tells through the eyes of Aida (Jasna Đuričić), a translator for the UN.

Conditions are precarious. Srpska’s troops took over the town of Srebrenica, while its citizens took refuge in a UN-owned camp. Even though they had been given an ultimatum, Srprska refused to resign. But Aida believes that the camp is the safest place. Isn’t that right? Srprska troops are prohibited from invading, and if they are reckless, the UN can just wipe them out with air raids, right? For this reason, when her husband and one of her sons (Aida had two sons) were barred from entering the overcrowded camp, Aida struggled, running around looking for a way to get them.

From there Žbanić has proven the quality of directing (which led to him winning the Best Director nomination at BAFTA 2021), through high-intensity builds, while placing the camera following the protagonist. An urgency is created, which often reminds me of Son of Saul (2015). Both were set in camps where genocide was in a war, and both succeeded in placing the audience as if they were in the midst of this tense situation.

But then again, apart from the absence of food, drink or toilets, don’t the UN camps guarantee the safety of their lives? That’s when Aida’s job as the translator took the role. He learned bit by bit, all of which culminated in the conclusion that the promises and hopes given to the citizens might not be fulfilled. Top Movie

The tension increased, as the fear in her character grew. In such conditions, nothing is more frightening than uncertainty, plus the “killing” of hope. Gradually, the script shows the events that kill that hope one by one. The UN, which had been a place of refuge, began to be cornered, even bent its knees. The turning point was in the negotiation scene between Srprska and the UN and citizen representatives. When Colonel Thom Karremans (Johan Heldenbergh) lights a cigarette for the violent General Ratko Mladić (brought very intimidatingly by the violent Boris Isaković), there we are increasingly haunted by helplessness.

Aida’s journey also reminds me of another competitor in the Best International Feature Film category, namely Dear Comrades! from Russia (reached the top 15 but failed to get a nomination), which also tells the story of a mother’s struggle to save her family in the midst of a massacre, using information as “insiders”. If at that time Aida was asked the question, “Quo Vadis?”, Maybe she would just be silent as she slowly shook her head.

Jasna Đuričić’s acting managed to bind the audience in the endless emotional ups and downs, as was the director’s ability to maintain a consistent tension for 102 minutes. The only decline occurred only when a flashback about the beauty competition that Aida had previously participated in was presented, it was not without purpose (although it did not affect the emotional impact if it was removed) namely describing her longing for times of peace.

It’s not difficult to guess the tragedy that lies behind, but that doesn’t mean the shock value is weakening. Especially when the film presents an epilogue that tore apart feelings. An epilogue about injustice, in life that goes hand in hand with wounds that refuse to disappear. Movie Review

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