Sunday, July 22, 2012

Look On! Esma's Secret: sexual violence in wartime

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (2006) is one of the best movies about consequences of the Balkan conflict.
The story line of this film focuses on the life of a single mother and her teenage daughter in the Grbvica neighbourhood of Sarajevo, Bosnia. As the plot unfolds it becomes apparent that the mother, Esma (played by Belgrade-born Mirjana Karanović), was raped by a Serbian soldier and became pregnant as a result.
As Professors Ingvill C. Mochmann (Köln, Germany) and Stein Ugelvik Larsen (Bergen, Norway) wrote in their 2008 article, "Children Born of War": The Life Course of Children Fathered by German Soldiers in Norway and Denmark During WWII—Some Empirical Results (p. 361):
'How important it is to provide information to society concerning children born of sexual exploitation and abuse is clearly seen by the impact of the film “Grbvica”. The film produced in 2006 told the story of a relationship between a Bosnian woman who had been raped by a Serbian soldier during the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and gave birth to a daughter. This film created a shock in society and raised the awareness of the topic in society. A positive consequence of the movie was that rape victims were acknowledged as victims of war and do now receive a small pension.'
Written and directed by Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić, the film is definitely worth watching, as an example of how popular culture, and film in particular, can be used to influence the law.
The film, which was released in Britain as Esma's Secret: Grbavica, is also interesting in its depiction of post-traumatic stress.
Esma suffers from trauma and relives the experience of her sexual assault in certain scenes. Through the medium of the film, the director speaks of crimes which are both 'unspeakable' and 'undiscussable', to use to terminology of Dr Janja Beč, a Serbian sociologist and genocide researcher. Yet under pressure from Esma's daughter, who wishes to go on a school trip, Esma and the film finally break the silence surrounding her trauma.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

No comments: