Volume 79, Number 22 | November 04 - 10, 2009
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FILM

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Storm” (+)
This interesting movie could have been much better; nevertheless, it is worth seeing. The plot centers on the war crime trial of a Bosnian Serb general who during the civil war in Bosnia (part of the old Yugoslav Tito-run Balkan state which was settled during the Clinton presidency) allegedly committed acts of ethnic cleansing against the Bosnian Muslims.

Photo courtesy of Film Movement
Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox) and Mira Arendt (Anamaria Marinca)

The film opens three years before the trial — with General Goran Duric (Drazen Kuhn) in hiding (in Spain) with his wife and children.  He is captured and sent to The Hague for trial before an International War Crimes Court which is delayed for three years.  His prosecutor, Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox), is dedicated to seeing justice done.  Her major witness is a young Muslim man, Alen Hajdarevic (Kresimir Mikic), whose credibility is destroyed on the witness stand when he is shown by the defense counsel to be lying about placing the defendant at the scene of the alleged war crime.

Hannah, who must find a new witness in a week, flies to Bosnia.  She interviews Alen’s sister, Mira Arendt (Anamaria Marinca), who was raped — along with other Muslim women — in a hotel prison kept by the general for that gang-rape operation.  Mira, at first reluctantly, becomes the new witness.

Meanwhile, the politics of the Balkins have changed. The powers that be do not want to enlarge the charges against the general, because Bosnia is now seeking membership in the European Union.  The less controversy, the better.

The acting is excellent, but the story could have used more action as well as flashbacks to the scenes of ethnic cleansing.  While watching the film, I thought back to the Serbian massacre of the 6,000 young Muslim men at Srebrenica when the U.N. troops failed to protect the Muslims — who had been told they would be protected by U.N. troops.

This is not a docudrama involving real people, but the fiction is reminiscent of real war crimes and crimes against humanity committed throughout the world.  In this case it is Bosnia, but similar atrocities occurred in Rwanda, Burundi and elsewhere.  Keeping the depravity that humans are capable of in our consciousness — remember the Holocaust in Germany — is sufficient reason to see this movie.

HS said:  “Seeing this film was a valuable experience.  I learned about the trials in the Hague, and the political influences to which they are subject.  You don’t know exactly how much of the movie is true and how much is made up — but you get the feeling that it happened closely enough to the way it was depicted.

The examples of cruelty and brutality toward the innocent shows what can happen, in Europe as well as Africa, when people are led into hostilities.  The technology improves, with new weapons and cell phones, but the combination of power and evil remains the same.  Sadly, evil and nuclear weapons are coming closer together.”

In German, English, Bosnian and Serbian; with English subtitles. 89 minutes; not Rated; at The Quad Cinema (34 West 13th Street). For screening times, call 212-255-8800.


“The Maid” (-)
I was looking to see a movie that had been around for a while, since the week’s new openings did not read very well in the reviews.  The Daily News gave this film four stars so I thought, what have I got to lose.  Regrettably, plenty in terms of time — and at the age of 85, time is very precious.

Photo courtesy of Elephant Eye Films
Catalina Saavedra as Raquel — maid on the edge of a nervous breakdown

Standing in line at the Angelika Film Center waiting for the earlier performance to end, I asked a couple departing what they thought of the film.  They said they liked it.  Inside the theater, a late-middle-aged-guy recognized me and said, “Only a masochist could enjoy this film.  It took so, so long to come to an end.  I wish I could spare you the agony.”  After his comment, I spoke with three other people leaving the earlier show — all of whom said they enjoyed the picture.  The guy who referred to masochism was right.  This is a boring and much too long movie.

The plot is simple.  Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), who has been a maid in the home of a Chilean couple with four kids for many years, is about to have a nervous breakdown. The lady of the house, Pilar (Claudia Celedon), is a patrician and kind woman who wants to hire a second maid to assist Raquel.  Raquel is distressed by the thought.

When a young Peruvian maid arrives, Raquel makes her life miserable and the girl departs. Pilar’s mother states that she knows someone who could make it work, and Sonia (Anita Reeves) is hired.  Sonia is a tough old biddy who, before she leaves, beats up Raquel.  Then comes Lucy (Mariana Loyola) who is competent, mature, and a darling who gets Raquel to accept her.

Lucy takes Raquel to her home on Christmas where Uncle Eric seduces Raquel.  Raquel, who looks to be in her 40s or 50s, is both gratified and horrified.  She tells Eric that it was her first sexual experience.

A couple of cute scenes occur involving children, but all in all, if you give any thought to how you are spending your discretionary hours this, in my opinion, is not the movie for you.  However, there was more than a smattering of applause at the end of the picture.  Why, I don’t know.

In Spanish, with English subtitles. 105 minutes. Not Rated. At the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston Street, at Mercer Street). For screening times, call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.

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