Grbavica (film)

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Grbavica film.jpg
Grbavica film poster
Directed byJasmila Žbanić
Written byJasmila Žbanić
Barbara Albert
Produced byTanja Aćimović
StarringMirjana Karanović
Luna Mijović
Distributed byDogwoof Pictures
Release dates
  • 12 February 2006 (2006-02-12) (BIFF)
  • 1 March 2006 (2006-03-01) (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • 15 December 2006 (2006-12-15) (UK)
Running time
90 minutes
CountriesBosnia and Herzegovina

Grbavica is a 2006 film by Jasmila Žbanić about the life of a single mother in contemporary Sarajevo in the aftermath of systematic rapes of Bosniak women by Serbian soldiers during the Bosnian War.[1] It was released in the United Kingdom as Esma's Secret: Grbavica, and in US as Grbavica: Land of My Dreams.

The film shows, through the eyes of the main character Esma, her teenage daughter Sara, and others, how everyday life is still being shaped by the Bosnian War of the 1990s. The film was an international co-production between companies from Bosnia, Austria, Croatia, and Germany; it received funding from the German television companies ZDF and Arte. Grbavica received an enthusiastic response from critics, earning a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It won the Golden Bear at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival and it was Bosnia and Herzegovina's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 79th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.


The title refers to the neighbourhood of Sarajevo where Esma lives, which was one of the most traumatized neighbourhoods in the city.[1]

According to the director, 1992 everything changed and I realized that I was living in a war in which sex was used as part of a war strategy to humiliate women and thereby cause the destruction of an ethnic group. 20,000 women were systematically raped in Bosnia during the war.

In the film, the Serbian rapists are referred to as Chetniks, a term which some of the population of Sarajevo (mostly Bosnian Muslims and Croats and Sarajevan Serbs) used for the besieging Serb troops.


Single mother Esma lives with her 12-year-old daughter Sara in post-war Sarajevo. Sara wants to go on a school field trip and her mother starts working as a waitress at a nightclub to earn the money for the trip.

Sara befriends Samir, who, like Sara, has no father. Both of their fathers allegedly died as war heroes. Samir is surprised to find out that Sara does not know the circumstances of her father's death. Samir's own father was killed by Serbian military near Žuč when he refused to leave the trench he was defending. Whenever Sara and her mother discuss this delicate topic, however, Esma's responses are always vague. The situation grows more complicated when students who can provide a certificate proving that they are the offspring of war heroes can go on the field trip for free. Esma explains to Sara that her father's corpse was never found and that she has no certificate. She promises to try to obtain the document. Secretly, however, Esma attempts to borrow the money Sara needs from her friend Sabina, her aunt and her boss.

Sara is haunted by a nagging feeling that something is not right. Shocked and bewildered when she discovers she is not mentioned as the child of a war hero on the list of pupils going on the school trip, Sara lashes out at Samir. At home, however, she confronts her mother and demands to know the truth. Esma breaks down and finally admits that she was raped at a prisoner camp and forced to have the child who resulted from this violation. Sara realizes she is the child of a Serbian soldier. This discovery brings her closer to her mother and helps overcome her trauma. In the end, Sara leaves for the field trip, not waving to her mother until the last moment. On the bus, the students start to sing a popular 70's song "Sarajevo, ljubavi moja" (eng. Sarajevo, My Love), written and performed by Kemal Monteno, and Sara joins in.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Philip Kennicott (13 April 2007). "Bosnia's Lingering Shadow of War". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 September 2013.

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