WHERE TO WATCH
As If I Am Not There is a story of a young school teacher from Sarajevo, Samira, whose life is shattered the day a Serbian soldier walks into her apartment and orders her to pack her things. Shortly after the onset of the Bosnian War, her village is invaded by the Serbian army: the men are executed, and the women are rounded up and cast into servitude. Imprisoned in a warehouse in a remote region of Bosnia with the other women from the village, Samira quickly learns the rules of camp life: do not think of life on the outside… do not think about the past or the future… do not worry about other people… do no stand out… keep your mind occupied… and above all… do not believe the rumors you hear.
The day she is picked out to “entertain” the soldiers, the real nightmare begins. In a cruel and barbaric environment run by an army without a moral compass, Samira’s beauty is her curse. With nothing left and facing the constant threat of death, she struggles against the hatred she sees all around her. In a final act of courage, she decides to make one last stand: to defy her captors by putting on makeup and letting her beauty shine, “not for them” she explains, “but for me”. This simple act saves her life when a kind-hearted Serbian army officer takes an interest in her, and her situation gradually starts to improve. The Captain, as he comes to be known, shields Samira from his soldiers and serves as a symbol of refuge; a ray of light in a dark world.
She soon realizes that surviving means more than staying alive, and finds the strength to endure violent displacement, sexual assault, and the hatred around her. Although difficult to watch, As If I Am Not There is a harrowing war story in which new director Juanita Wilson ensures that the film speaks intelligently and powerfully about war-time behavior and the plight of women in a manner that encompasses much more than any single individual. This film is especially impressive given the fact that the role of director and lead actress are filled by individuals to whose feature film debuts are this picture.
By Peter Bradshaw
“A film about the appalling experiences of a woman subjected to ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, that is grim but rewarding.”
By Boyd van Hoeij
“Based on the book by Croatian scribe Slavenka Drakulic, and impressively lensed in gorgeous widescreen, this is a bona fide arthouse title that should turn Wilson into a name to watch.”
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
- Toronto International Film Festival: OFFICIAL SELECTION
- Palm Springs International Film Festival: OFFICIAL SELECTION
- Berlinale Film Festival: OFFICIAL SELECTION