© Ventura Film GmbH

Esmas Geheimnis - Grbavica (Grbavica)
Austria/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Germany/Croatia 2006

Opening 6 Jul 2006

Directed by: Jasmila Zbanic
Writing credits: Jasmila Zbanic
Principal actors: Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic

The personal untold stories of war victims are not only numerous but painful, especially involving women and children. Esam (Mirjana Karanovic) and her 12-year-old daughter, Sara (Luna Mijovic) lived in the ghetto quarter of Sarajevo, Bosnia. This area of the city, called Grbavica, was a known section of the city where women and children were indiscreetly delivered from war zones during the Balkans War. These transported women were left with nothing not even their dignity. In order to survive, they depended on each other for their daily needs. They organized support group meetings to give and receive according to their emotional needs.

Esam and Sara are victims of the aftermath of the Balkans War. Esam, now a single mother, has never had to communicate to her daughter the truth of their relocation nor its horrific memories. Sara, on the other hand, had no previous knowledge of a hidden family secret and thought her life was wonderful. Through her perseverance to attend a school trip, Sara would soon embark on the truth of her very existence. The catalyst that forced the revelation was that each student who could provide the school with authenticity of their father being a war hero (or killed in action) would receive a substantial discount toward the cost of the trip. Sara was delighted to let all her friends see this official document, which she had heard about since she was a little girl. Esam was terrified to be forced to produce it.

Director Jasmila Zbanic attempts to open up the history books of Bosnia. She uses Esam and Sara’s powerful story to reveal to the world untold atrocities which bite the realities of war. Bosnia is only one example but it is a personal memory of director Zbanic. She vividly remembers the women being brought into the quarters of Sarajevo. It was shocking! She was even more shocked to realize that while working on this film that even today these victims have been given no support to help them readjust into society. The actresses in the film dedicated much of their time in support groups talking with victims to help them understand how to communicate their pain. Young actress Luna Mijovic says that she was in tears listening to the teenagers tell their stories. She will never take her protected life for granted ever again. Grbavica won the Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlinale. (Karen Pecota)

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