MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Jesus provided us a memorable beatitude when he said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) It’s easy to hold onto this verse and to skip past the words that immediately follow: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” (Matthew 5:10)
Quo Vadis, Aida? is a fact-based reenactment set in Bosnia, July 1995. Aida (Djuricic) is a translator for the United Nations peacekeeping force in the small town of Srebrenica. When the Bosnian-Serb army takes over her Muslim town, her family is among the thousands of citizens looking for shelter in the UN camp. To stay in town is to face certain death, but there is no way that the camp can accept more than a couple hundred people.
Aida finds herself caught in the middle of growing tensions between the Dutch UN military force, Serbian military leaders, and the citizens of her home town. Most of the film is centered on the decisions that she must make to protect her family while also striving to meet the demands of those around her. Before her current job Aida was a school teacher and her husband Nihad (Bajrovic) was a high school principal. One of the first things that Aida has to figure out is how to get Nihad and their two adult sons into the camp. Then she has to figure out ways to protect them once they are inside.
Most of the story takes place in the claustrophobic and overcrowded UN camp, but the sheer scope of the film’s crowd scenes depicts how easy it is for best intentions to become overwhelmed by massive numbers of people in need.
Bosnian writer-director Jasmila Zbanic was living in Vermont as a student intern 25 years ago when the war atrocities began. She felt compelled to make this film as a painful but necessary act of remembrance.
This film is what film critics call a “hard sit” since there is nothing on the screen that is not significantly tragic. (When the film finally shares death statistics during the end credits, it’s even worse than you might imagine.) But Jasna Djuricic’s performance as Aida is one of the year’s best and Quo Vadis, Aida? is a film of the highest quality, nominated for this year’s Best International Film Academy Award.
"Quo vadis, Aida?" can be translated from Latin as “Where are you going, Aida?” The original phrase “Quo vadis?” is attributed to a story in the second-century apocryphal Acts of Peter in which the disciple is fleeing Jerusalem to avoid his own crucifixion by the Roman government. Outside of town, he encounters the risen Christ who asks him this question. In response, Peter returns to Jerusalem to continue his ministry and eventually meet his own death on a cross.
Where do we run to when the going gets tough? Should we be running away or standing alongside the oppressed? Christ is still asking the same question and waiting for us to change direction.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A devastating reenactment of war crimes and the difficult work of peacekeeping.
Five pitchforks: Offscreen genocide is still genocide and worthy of maximum pitchforks; occasional strong swearing; some stark scenes involving body remnants.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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