Dir/scr: Srdan Vuletic. Bosnia Herzegovina-Slovenia-Serbia-Germany-UK. 2007. 102mins.
Local Balkan audiences will respond cheerfully to the familiar characters and scenes in Srdan Vuletic's lively sophomore effort, but international sales agents Fortissimo Films will have a tougher time selling this well-intentioned film to international markets. The story of a cab driver striving to be a nice guy against all the odds rambles along smoothly but seems unsure which way to develop. Vuletic does a much better job at infusing life into incidents and characters than shaping the unfocused script and giving it a clear and distinct trajectory. This is as colourful an addition to festival programmes as was Vuletic's award-winning debut Summer In The Golden Valley but it may have a harder time crossing borders.
Rafko (Petrovic) is a Sarajevo cab driver who moonlights as a scout for a gang of burglers and is occasionally paid in kind by young women who are short of money, but is ultimately just a nice guy completely smitten with his new baby son whom he drives around town while earnestly explaining the meaning of life. One night after a beating from the gang for giving them the wrong address, his long-suffering wife (Lorenci) leaves home with the baby.
Desperate, he decides to change his ways. He resolves never to cheat on his wife, to stay away from criminals and to be a real family man. But when he takes a massive loan from his objectionable colleague Sejo (Hadzihafizbegovic) to buy a Renault Espace so he can be the only minivan in town and a new suit to show the world he is a new man, things start to go wrong. His first fare is a pregnant woman who he ferries to hospital, only to be accused of being the baby's father. Meanwhile, Sejo constantly tries to tempt him back into crime until a sudden development threatens to irrevocably kill any goodness left in him.
Recalling traditional Yugoslav cinema which combined sex, violence and humour into a rich humanist cocktail, Vuletic's film moves sprightly but changes directions too often. Rather than one solid story line, Vuletic piles on the local colour but it's not quite enough to sustain a full-length feature film. There are inevitable allusions to the recent Balkan war as well as the insatiable materialism which has replaced it, but as essential as these ingredients are to the plot, they cannot replace the structure itself.
That said, the film boasts gutsy performances from its cast. Petrovic, Hadzihafisbegovic and the supporting players are energetic and dedicated. Shot in a brownish tinge reminiscent of the Orwo stock used in Eastern Europe cinema, the film was an appropriate choice for the opening of this year's Sarajevo film festival, pointing out both the strongest but also the more fragile features in much of contemporary Balkan cinema.
Refresh Productions (Bosnia Herzegovina)
Studio Artcadena (Slovenia)
Yodimovie Craftsmen (Serbia)
Riva Film (Germany)
Clubdeal Ltd (UK)
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