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‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’

by Kaori Shoji

When you think about Angelina Jolie in 2013, the term “preventive double mastectomy” may leap to mind. Which is probably why now is a good time to release her 2011 directorial debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” Jolie, who visited Bosnia and Herzegovina as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, has made a film about the Bosnian War. Her name is always hot, and if that helps to sell this deserving film, surely that’s a good thing.

It’s not exactly a box-office draw. Filmed in Bosnian/Serbian with a cast comprised entirely of local actors, “In the Land …” is often too painful to watch, as it re-creates a fragment of the horror of what was the worst genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. Jolie’s special focus is systematic mass rape, inflicted by soldiers on both sides on countless women in the region.

There’s love in the midst of hell. Danijel (Goran Kostic) spots Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) in a Serbian barracks, brought along with 100 other women to serve the soldiers. In peacetime, Danijel had a crush on Ajla, and he now uses his authority to get her special treatment, i.e., a sun-filled private room where they can play at being lovers. Ajla’s true feelings are kept under wraps, but she needs him for her protection, even as the screams of other women penetrate the walls of her room.