Dir. Srdjan Vuletic. Bosnia and Herzegovina-France-UK, 2003. 104 mins.

This is another case of the message coming across much clearer than the ramshackle vehicle put together to carry it through. A inexpert crime comedy caper about an adolescent who has to produce 50,000 marks to clear up the memory of his father and who thinks he is willing to go to any lengths to obtain the money, the story is replete with all kinds of remarks about life in Sarajevo today, none of them new or particularly original. While it does reflect the wild despondency and utter chaos reigning in this part of the world, and it is adequately wrapped up in black humour, the familiarity of its remarks limits its appeal. That said, it may receive a boost from its appearance at Rotterdam, where it plays in the VPRO Tiger Awards Competition later this month.

Fikret (Sijaric) is 16-years-old, courts the daughter of a corrupt cop (Cvetkovic), runs around with an overweight rapper friend his own age (a sample of his improvisation: 'a cop with humour/must have brain tumour'), sniffs glue whenever he gets his hands on enough money to buy it and feels, like most Bosnians, that the best place to be is somewhere else.

His lethargic existence is interrupted by his father's untimely death and by a stranger (Hadzihafizbegovic) who comes up to the grave during the funeral to demand an old debt the deceased never honoured. It means, according to Moslem traditions that the father will not be able to rest in the next world until the cash is paid, so Fikret announces he will do the necessary to cover the debt.

His first plan of action is to hold up the local store, with catastrophic results that lead him straight into the arms of the police, there to be picked up by his girlfriend's father, who sees him as the ideal patsy in a kidnapping affair he is preparing with his partner. The idea is that the cops themselves will grab the daughter (Marjanovic) off a local millionaire. Fikret and his friend will then keep an eye on her until her father will come up with the money, take the blame for having taken her and, for a share in the profit, will do some time in jail.

However, nothing works out as planned. The victim shows much more enterprise than her guards, the police do everything except keep the law, car chases and shoot outs follow, and the ending dutifully rounds up all the loose ends and ties them up in any old way. The general assumption is that since everything has already happened in Sarajevo, nothing is impossible.

From the basic premise of the debt that is supposed to activate the plot, to the climactic grandstand between the policemen and the kids at the end, very little make sense in this script. Characters refrain from doing things for no evident reasons, the ruling anarchy is supposed to justify everything and anything, and the most significant aspects are concentrated in marginal events. They include the crooked cop who dreams of using the dirty money to buy a hairdressing salon for the wife he does not have, the repeated statement that there are no more gentlemen in Sarajevo, the images of a deserted zoo inhabited by one mangy dog, the silent refugee families squatting in an unfinished building, a sad-faced man pimping for his innocent-looking teenage daughter, the overall contrast between the respect of traditions on the one hand and the lack of respect for human values on the other hand.

It all adds up to a composite picture of a miserable and poverty-stricken world where everything is permitted because there is no one to prevent it, of people living disconnected from a reality they cannot comprehend any more.

A motley cast of newcomers, including Sijaric who looks suitably disconcerted and often bombed out of his mind by all the glue passing through his nose, and veterans like Cvetkovic, still as energetic as he used to be in heyday of Yugoslav cinema, are credible enough, despite the haywire sequence of events. Thanks to them it's possible to ignore once in a while the incongruities of the plot and focus on the details, if it is any consolation.

Prod cos: Refresh Productions, Fildebroc, Clubdeal
Int'l sales:
Pueblo Film Trading
Exec prod:
Pierre Spengler
Ademire Kenovic
Srdjan Vuletic
Slobodan Trnini
Catherine Kelber
Prod des:
Kemal Hrustanovic
Simon Boswell
Main cast:
Haris Sirajic, Kemal Cebo, Zana Marjanovic, Svetozar Cvetkovic, Sleksandar Seksan, Emir Hadzihafizbegovic