Warriors aka Peacekeepers (1999) UNPROFOR Peace Units in Bosnia

Warriors is an almost three hour long TV  production starring Ioan Gruffud (Hornblower, King Arthur), Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood, Pride and Prejudice) and Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers). Unlike some other great TV productions it isn’t capable to get rid of the TV feel. At every moment we are aware of it having been made for TV. I don’t know how this was aired, probably on two consecutive evenings, watching it like I did in one go wasn’t the best idea. If there hadn’t been some famous actors I would have thought it is a documentary.

You may have gathered already that I didn’t like it that much but it still is an important movie. Many movies depict the absurd mandate that most UN troops have to follow. Unless directly attacked they are not allowed to fight. They are not allowed to take sides. Mostly, like in this case, they aren’t even allowed to evacuate people unless they are seriously injured. This means they have to watch innocent civilians getting killed.

The movie starts in England where we see the soldiers and officers on leave and get to know the main characters. From there we follow them to Bosnia where they are instructed about their mandate which doesn’t really pose any problems for them at the beginning.

Our three main characters will stay in the region for six months. Starting as mostly joyful men who want to make a difference they undergo some serious changes and at the end none of them is remotely comparable to the man he was before he was sent to the region at war.

It is one thing to be told to not interfere when there are soldiers involved but a totally other matter when you see how civilians are raped, butchered and tortured. All these young UN soldiers ask for, is to be able to evacuate those who might get killed. Their superiors stay firm, there is no helping that couldn’t be misunderstood. Soon enough they get proof of this. In a few instances, when no superior officer is around, the one or the other soldier attempts to help and each and every single time the consequences are fatal.

In one instance Lt. Feeley (Ioan Gruffud) assists an elderly Muslim couple whose dog is shot and whose house is plundered. He intervenes and chases off the aggressors only to find the couple executed, when he returns a few days later. Instances like these are numerous and the movie shows more and more atrocities towards the end.

The final part shows the three main protagonists back in England. None of them can cope. Having helplessly witnesses gratuitous acts of violence against children, women and old people has left them shattered. Two have a severe anger management problem and the third attempts to commit suicide.

If you are interested in the peace work of the UN troops and want to see in great detail how they operate, this is a good movie in this respect. There are others who show this very well too but not in so much detail. If you want to watch really good movies on the war in Bosnia I suggest you rather stick to Welcome to Sarajevo (see my review), Savior (see my review) and No Man’s Land (review upcoming).

I couldn’t find a trailer so I attached part 4 of the film.

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Children in War Movies: A List

In this post I would like to focus on war  movies in which children have leading roles and are not just supporting actors like in The Hurt Locker to name but one example.

There are many movies whose sole focus are children. They come from different countries, show different conflicts and times but they have one thing in common: they are all good, very good or outstanding. This is quite remarkable. It is as if those film directors who aim for entertainment only would shy away from showing children in war movies. All the movies listed below are very different in tone. Some are light and almost playful, like Hope and Glory, some are depressing and raw like Come and See, others have the quality of a fairytale like Pan´s Labyrinth.

I am sure my list is not exhaustive. If you know of any others, let me know. I will try and review most of them in later posts,  like I already did with Hope and Glory (see post), Welcome to Sarajevo (link to post), The Children of Huang Shi (see post) and Savior (see post). I am stating the name and the year and country in brackets. The conflict and where the war takes place follow behind. I did include a few movies with teenagers in it like The Bridge or Napola, but most of the others focus on much smaller children. I did also  include Savior as the newborn is central to the story.

I am sure you will discover many you did not know yet as I did.

The Drum (GB, 1938): India

Mrs Miniver (US 1942): WWII, British Homefront

Since You Went Away (US, 1944): WWII, American Homefront (here is my review)

Roma, Città Aperta aka Rome, Open City (Italy, 1945): WWII, Italy

Kim (US, 1950): India

Forbidden Games aka Jeux interdits (1952, France): WWII, France

The Bridge aka Die Brücke (1959, Germany): WWII, Germany

Two Women aka La ciociara (1960, Italy/France): WWII, Italy

Ivan’s Childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962, Soviet Union): WWII, Russia

Hornet´s Nest (1970, USA): WWII, Italy

Lacombe Lucien (1974, France): WWII, France

The Tin Drum aka Die Blechtrommel (Germany, 1979): WWII, Germany

Hope and Glory (1987, UK): WWII, Blitz  (Here is my review)

Empire of the Sun (1987, USA) : Chinese-Japanese War WWII

Au-revoir les enfants aka Goodbye, Children (1987, France/Germany): WWII, Holocaust,France

Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988, Japan): WWII, Japan. Anime. (See my post)

Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review)

Come and See aka Idi i smotri(1985, Soviet Union): WWII, Byelorussia

The Ogre aka Der Unhold (1996, France/Germany/UK): WWII, Nazi Germany

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997, USA) : Bosnia

Life is beautiful aka La vita è bella (1997, Italy): WWII, Holocaust (see post on La vita è bella)

Savior (1998, USA ): Bosnia

Silent Night (2002, USA): WWII, Germany (see my post on Silent Night)

Innocent Voices aka Voces inocentes (2004, Mexico/USA/Puerto Rico): El Salvador (see my post on Innocent Voices)

Turtles can fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004, Iran/France/Iraq): Iraq

Before the Fall aka Napola (2004, Germany): WWII, Germany (see my review of NaPola)

Pan´s Labyrinth aka El laberinto del fauno (2006, Spain): WWII Franco´s Spain

Under the Bombs aka Sous les Bombes (2007, France/Lebanon): 2006, Lebanon (see my review of Under the Bombs)

Miracle at St. Anna (2008, US): WWII, Italy (here is my review)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/USA): WWII, Holocaust (see my review)

Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008, Australia, China, Germany, USA): Japanese occupation of China

Winter in Wartime aka Oorlogswinter (2008, Netherlans, Belgium): WWII, occupied Hollad in Winter, 1945 (here is the link to my post)

The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010, Russia): WWII, Russia 1941. Germans attack the Brest Fortress (here is the link to my post).

The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review)

This list is being updated regularly.

Savior (1998): An Extremely Grim Movie about the War in Bosnia

Thanks to TPC who commented on my post “Welcome to Sarajevo” I discovered this movie and have finally watched it.

Oh – my – God.

Before even trying to attempt to describe this movie let me quote from a NY Times review by Stephen Holden:

As Mr. Quaid’s character, Guy, perilously makes his way through the war-torn countryside, the film portrays a land whose people, regardless of ethnicity, have been reduced to animalistic survival tactics by the violence that has devastated the region. The war has turned seemingly ordinary people into potential murderers, rapists and torturers. And the movie’s unblinking scenes of atrocities are among the most graphic and upsetting ever shown in a commercial film.

This sums up quite a lot. Savior is really heavy stuff and so depressing. The goriest battle scenes from any WWI, WWII or Vietnam movie can never get as depressing as this. Like the war in Rwanda. A tribal war.

Gritty realism is not all we see and I did have my problems with this movie. There is  a very Christian undertone all through it. Or not even an undertone, rather a loud drone. The character change of Guy (Dennis Quaid) is psychologically not very convincing. I can understand that he goes berserk after his wife and his son get blown up in a terrorist attack but from then on… He escapes with his friend (Stellan Skarsgard – not one of his better roles and far too short) to the French Foreign Legion and from there we follow him to Bosnia where he is fighting as a mercenary on the side of the Serbs. We see him commit atrocities until he and another soldier, Goran, get to drive Vera, a pregnant young woman back to her family. She has been raped by a muslim and is now being treated as if it was her fault. Her fellow Serbs hate, blame  and despise her for this. Goran is a brute and what we see him do to an old woman and later to Vera is almost not watchable. I tell you, not for one second do you want to imagine yourself in the situation of one of those women.

The illustration of women as victims in war movies does find its sad culmination point in Savior.

After Vera has given birth under the most inhuman circumstances something snaps in Guy and he seems to reclaim  his humanity. From then on he is “The Savior”. It is not very subtle that the filmmakers chose to show us repeatedly that Guy is wearing  a cross with a three-dimensional Christ nailed to it.

The bleak parts that deal purely with this godforsaken war are overwhelming. Maybe it would really have been too hard to watch if they hadn’t tried to gloss it over a bit. Be is as it may… This movie exudes such an honest try at showing the atrocities of this war that I really think it should be watched. What makes me extremely thoughtful is to think that if these atrocities had been invented by a script writer we would say: “What a sick mind!”. But this did happen… And not even so long ago…

A brief remark about the music. This movie has a very beautiful score, in parts traditional regional folk songs sung by mysteriously haunting female voices. Some of it can be heard in the trailer.

What do you think? Any people from ex Yugoslavia reading this? Is Welcome to Sarajevo the better movie?

I am not sure if Welcome to Sarajevo is better, but it is less controversial. When it comes to liking I must admit I am partial to Savior. I liked it much more than Welcome to Sarajevo. There is something in the character of Guy that I could relate to. Probaly his utter loneliness that encloses him like an aura. This cold sniper personality  he is wearing to shield himself and hide that he has been deeply wounded… I don’t approve of his acts, of course, but from an emotional point of view I think I get him.