Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BHFFNYC ’16: Our Everyday Life

There are things you never get accustomed to. Sasha Susic is a Balkan War veteran still struggling with relatively mild PTSD. He has witnessed death, but he is still not prepared when potentially fatal illness strikes within his nuclear family. His father is even less so. However, everyone is used to carrying on in the face of whatever chance and circumstance throws their way in Ines Tanović’s Our Everyday Life (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.

Apparently, Susic got a close look at the dark side of humanity, but a marriage to a foreign journalist saved him and his mates from the worst of it. He now lives with his sixty-something parents in Sarajevo, mostly just brooding around the flat. His father Muhamed makes no secret of his contempt for Sasha’s lack of ambition or his frustration with the Bohemian lifestyle of his very pregnant sister, Senada, who is currently living abroad with her Slovenian lover. Their mother Marija tries to play peacemaker, but a not-so cold war still rages between father and son. Nevertheless, they will come together when they have to, because they are not tacky people.

You could think of OEL as something very much like a Bosnian Ozu film, which is very high praise indeed. Some might say very little happens in it, but frankly we see all the stuff of life therein. It is also rather fascinating to watch how Tanović’s screenplay addresses the Balkan War and its ramifications. At most, they are secondary issues, albeit important ones. Frankly, it is not so very different than the treatment you might find of 9/11 in major American films that cannot pretend it didn’t happen, but are circumspect in their references. The War is still a bit more prominent in Tanović’s mix, but it is put on equal footing with economic challenges and generational conflicts.

Emir Hadzihafizbegovic and Uliks Fehmiu are terrific as the mildly semi-estranged father and son. Whether it is a scene of spiteful bickering or tender rapprochement, there is not a false moment shared between them. Vedrana Seksan is massively charismatic in her brief but pivotal scenes as Senada, while Jasna Ornela Beri is all very well and good as Marija, but her sainted mother material feels predictably familiar.

Frankly, it was not crazy strategy on the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina choosing OEL as the nation’s official foreign language Oscar submission. It is a very fine film that will impress viewers who take the time to engage with it. However, it is so understated it was unable to cut through the pomp and noise of awards season. It is nice to be able to catch up with it now. Highly recommended for those who appreciate smart, realistic drama, Our Everyday Life screens this Friday (5/27) at the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s BHNYC.