Country: Bosnia & Herzegovina
SARAJEVO -- A man who finds himself unexpectedly stuck with a little baby is funny, but in the context of the war in the Balkans things become much more tragic.
Bosnian director Nedzad Begovic struggles to find an original tone for "Jasmina" half-way between comedy and drama, yet the story ends up more sentimental and schematic than droll. In the few moments when "Jasmina" strikes the right chord, it becomes tearfully touching, but overall it's much too soft to survive without festival protection.
Begovic is known for his cheerful doc "Totally Personal," where he used his own family members to record life in Bosnia from Communism to the war and beyond. In this first fiction feature, he focuses on a story so simple and improbable it reads like a fable. What is lacking here is some fairy-tale charm.
As the siege of Sarajevo escalates in 1993, two young parents send their infant daughter to the seacoast in the care of her grandmother Safa (Nada Durevska.) They begin a precarious existence living in an abandoned house next to alcoholic bum and misogynist Stipe (Zijah Sokolovic), who is irrationally hostile to the refugees next door.
But when granny ends up in the hospital, the addled old boozer reluctantly takes little Jasmina in. His clumsy and surreal attempts to get rid of the adorable tike, like putting her in a garbage dumpster, are played as gags, signaling that he will inevitably accept the responsibility of feeding baby and changing diapers. In the process, his own life will be changed.
Sokolovic, a veteran character actor, shows off a professional repertoire of moods and expressions from gruff to wide-eyed. Only in the film's closing scenes does he finally connect with the character on a deeper psychological level, creating a sense of real loss and heartbreak.
Shot on HD cam, the film uses mainly fixed framing which underscores the story's fairy tale/television quality. The cloying musical comment is used with a heavy hand.