Harrowing, tragic and based on true events, As If I Am Not There tells the story of a young woman from Sarajevo who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time in 1992. Based on Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic’s real life experiences overseeing the proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, Juanita Wilson’s debut feature chronicles a moment in history that must never be forgotten.
The film opens on Samira, a vibrant young woman, playing with her younger sister in her family home as her loving parents look on. Samira is a teacher, and she’s decided to travel to a remote village to teach the local children whose teacher has gone mysteriously missing. Getting on the bus, she arrives at a town that seems like something from a previous century. While her home was a beautiful urban apartment, this town is filled with downtrodden peasants leading mules.
She’s only been in town for one day when a group of Serbian soldiers round up all of the villagers at gunpoint and crowd them into the local hall. Samira tries to explain that there’s been a mistake; she’s from Sarajevo. But her cries fall upon deaf ears. The soldiers take all the men outside and shoot them before rounding up the women and shipping them by bus to a hangar in the middle of nowhere. Confused and frightened, none of the captives know what to do.
Disturbing, powerful and ultimately redemptive, As If I Am Not There is an amazing story of the will to survive and an important testament to the survivors of the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. —TIFF
Only for those with a strong stomach, this Balkan gruellingly tough drama based on a 1999 novel by the Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic, gives an unblinking look at sexual violence and degradation which albeit being exceptionally uneasy to watch, it is a film that really should be seen.
Bosnia in the 1990's and we follow a young girl who takes a summer job teaching in a remote village only to find herself swept up in the horror of men during wartime. It's very well photographed and the lead puts in a fantastic performance yet the script is lacking depth and we unfortunately come away feeling like we've seen it all before. 2.5 stars