Quo Vadis, Aida?
Starring Jasna Đuričić, Izudin Bajrović, Boris Isaković, Johan Heldenbergh, Raymond Thiry, and Emir Hadžihafizbegović
Written and directed by Jasmila Žbanić
Unrated, but includes scenes of coarse language, sexual situations, and warfare
Runtime: 104 minutes
Now available via video on demand
It's been 25 years since the Army of Republika Srpska took over Srebrenica right before the massacre when 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were slaughtered. Here in Alberta, we're thousands of miles away from the site nad much time has passed since 1995, though stories of genocide are always pertinent reminders of the value of cross-cultural dialogue in the pursuit of mutual peace, or at least avoiding unnecessary war and death no matter where you live.
The brilliant and harrowing new film Quo Vadis, Aida? takes us inside the early days of the struggle. UN translator Aida (Jasna Đuričić) is stuck in between her duty and her struggle to save her and her family after General Ratko Mladić (Boris Isaković) and the Army takes control of Srebrenica. As thousands of citizens scramble for shelter in the UN camp, many are stuck outside the fence. There's not enough room inside as the warlord takes the ineffectual UN to task. Aida, on the inside, plays a vital role in ensuring the communication between the two sides stay amicable since lives are on the line. But her heart is on the outside with her family, stuck where most of the population is waiting for doom to arrive.
Jasmila Žbanić's film is taut, fraught with tension from the very first minute. It's a rare - albeit fictitious - glimpse into the behind-the-scenes efforts to mitigate the human toll of war. It's a heart-pounding, heart-wrenching journey, one that deserves every accolade it can get.
The film had its world premiere at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in 2020, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival that same month. It won the Audience Award at the 50th International Film Festival in Rotterdam and Best International Film Award at the most recent Gothenburg Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Best International Film at the 36th Independent Spirit Awards and Best Film Not in the English Language during the 74th British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs). There, writer/director Žbanić was up for Best Director.
Later this month, it'll be up for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. While there are 15 films in total in that category alone, which means that there can only be one winner and far too many that don't make it. Even if it doesn't come home with gold, it shouldn't be forgotten, and neither should those 8,000 Bosniak Muslims.