Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut inspires praise and controversy

Angelina Jolie”s directorial debut “In the Land of Blood and Honey” is stirring the initial rumblings of critical praise as well as a bit of controversy. The mix feels oddly fitting given the trajectory of the filmmaker’s own relationship with the public.

Earlier this week producers were faced with a potential lawsuit from James Braddock, a Croatian author claiming that the script plagiarized his 2007 novel “The Soul Shattering.” He has since withdrawn his motion for a restraining order against the film.

Meanwhile, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced today that the film will be honored with the 2012 Stanley Kramer Award at the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony. As the PGA explains it, the award was established in 2002 to honor a motion picture, producer or other individual whose achievement or contribution illuminates provocative social issues in an accessible and elevating fashion.

Set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War that tore the Balkan region apart in the 1990s, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” follows Danijel (Goran Kosti), a soldier fighting for the Serbs, and Ajla (Zana Marjanovi), a Bosnian woman who is held captive in the camp he oversees. They knew one another as man and woman before the war and must reconcile who and what they have become to one another in the face of one of the most brutal and bloody genocidal conflicts in modern history.

Jolie wrote and directed the film, which was (quite ambitiously) shot in both English and BHS (Bosnian language). As she explains in her interview with Greg Ellwood, the director made an initial English language cut with her editor Patricia Rommel, at which point they collaborated with a Bosnian editor to create the BHS version of the film. The BHS language version will ultimately be released in theaters with English subtitles.

On the very day that the PGA announced its plans to honor “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” The New York Times reports that Branislav Djukic, of the Bosnian Serb Association of Camp Prisoners, has called for a ban on the film in the Serb-run portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Though he has only been privy to a trailer for the film, Djukic claims that it is “telling lies” in its depiction of Serbian soldiers raping women during the war. I am not sure what this association hopes to gain with their sight unseen protest of the film. Rape was repeatedly, horrifically used as a method of torture during the war, by all sides.

In another twist, Jolie had come under criticism during production by an association of Bosnian women for writing a female lead that “falls in love with her torturer.” All of these critiques are of course, as mentioned, being made prior to a full viewing of the film. Some, though likely not all, of the detractors may very well alter their stance once they have the full scope of the story.

As for me, I was already compelled by the trailers, as well as by the idea of Jolie stepping into the director”s chair. And whenever I get the sense that groups or organizations are threatened by a particular subject or tale, it only serves to pique my interest further. We should talk about the things that scare us; we should look at the images that shame us.

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