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Welcome to Sarajevo

Year: 1997
Production Co: Dragon Pictures
Studio: Miramax
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Fox, Goran Visjnic
Few directors do 'real' like Michael Winterbottom. His films - at least the ones that deal with unrest and violence - remind us of the true nature of violence. Whereas in everything from Star Wars to High Noon, from The Matrix to Dawn of the Dead , violence and guns are cool, iconic and brandished by the good guys, Welcome to Sarajevo reminds us how different the real world is from the cinema screen, and how when someone brandishes a gun, it's without fail a recipe for heartbreak and suffering.

Dillane is a UK journalist covering the deteriorating situation in the Balkans in the mid nineties, part of a loose camaraderie of foreign correspondents that include Woody Harrelson.

He finds a reliable driver - a reporter's best friend in the warzone - and tries to keep his head down amid the bullets flying. When he comes across an orphanage in the creeping shadow of the combat zone, he feels for the children to such an extent he uses their plight to broker an evacuation, even smuggling one out of the country to join him and his family in England.

That's the bare bones of the plot. Amid is all, Winterbottom portrays all the horrors of war, the Balkans war in particular. Most poignant is the musical performer joking with his sophisticated friends that when Sarajevo is officially the worst place in the world to live, he'll give a free concert. They laugh about it over wine in a comfortable apartment when Sarajevo is number 15 on the list, and the close of the film is his performance on a hillside overlooking a city that looks like eastern Europe at the close of World War II.

Along with reminding us that the rubble-strewn streets of foreign war-torn cities used to be places of vibrant commercial and family life, Winterbottom both shows and tells, and the result is among the greatest war films of recent times.

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