A Film a Week - Bosnian Pot / Bosanski lonac

 previously published on Cineuropa

Bosnian pot is the traditional dish of Bosnian miners, prepared in a particular fashion: everybody from the crew brings vegetables and, with any luck, meat from their homes, so they can cram everything into a single pot and cook it over a fire. Bosnian Pot, the newest film by Pavo Marinković, premiering in Sarajevo's Open Air sidebar, has little to do with cooking and the dish itself, but it uses its titular metaphor to tell a story about a peculiar refugee from the war in Bosnia who fell through the system in Austria, but who does everything in his power to stay in the country when his temporary residence permit is revoked. Given that the topic is close to the hearts of viewers in the region of the former Yugoslavia and the size of its diaspora in Central and Western Europe, some festival exposure and niche distribution should ensue.

Our protagonist Faruk (Senad Bašić) is a not-so-successful writer who is residing in Graz after fleeing the war in Sarajevo. He occasionally has some poetry recitals and the odd gig on local radio (the title comes from the topic of one essay that he wrote for it), and spends most of his free time in the “guest worker” circle centred on the restaurant owned by Stjepo (Goran Grgić), where his on-again-off-again lady friend Dragica (Bruna Bebić) works. Being far too intellectual for this working-class environment, he does not fit in very well with the rest of the crowd, but the fundamental difference between him and them lies somewhere else. While they have a foothold in both of their homelands, Faruk has one in none.

Trouble starts brewing when his residence permit gets revoked owing to the strict and complex Austrian administrative rules, so he needs proof that he is working and contributing to society in order to get a new one. To make matters worse, the radio is axeing his show, and his friend Sigi (Aleksandar Petrović) cannot protect him from this. But when Faruk meets one of Stjepo’s guests, Mujica (Admir Glamočak), who works as a janitor at the delapidated local theatre operated by actress-producer Therese (Brigit Stöger) and her unstable director fiancé Manni (Andreas Kiendl), he gets the idea to stage a play that he wrote before the war. Both sides would gain from the deal, so the actors get hired and rehearsals get under way, but can a “co-conspiracy” involving a failed artist and a failed theatre bear fruit?

Bosnian Pot is a very audience-friendly affair that touches on a number of subjects that are rarely spoken about, from the fact that the intellectuals among the refugees have more trouble fitting into a new society to the notion that some wars from the past, along with the refugees they have brought with them, fall out of the media spotlight whenever new ones rear their heads. Although it is by no means a spectacular affair, the movie benefits from its bulletproof concept of a hero’s journey to self-realisation and its clear four-act structure, as well as from its careful execution on a modest budget by all involved.

Senad Bašić plays sad sack Faruk sure-handedly, while the rest of the cast of Croatian, Bosnian and Austrian actors join in the interplay with him, and Marinković guides his ensemble through the right mix of heart-warming comedy and human drama. The cinematography by Peter Roehsler captures the sober reality of Graz and its outskirts, while the music, consisting of Ted Regklis' original score and some ex-Yugoslav hits, highlights the emotional landscape of the film. In the end, Bosnian Pot feels like eating warm comfort food.

No comments:

Post a Comment