Movie review: Quo Vadis, Aida?

Bosnian war

Quo Vadis AidaQuo Vadis, Aida? is a film nominated as the best in the International Feature Film category. It was the entry from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jasmila Zbanic is the writer, director, and co-producer. The film is mostly in Serbo-Croatian and is subtitled.

The movie is based on true events in July 1995. We see the commander of the local United Nations brigade in Bosnia calling the chain of command. Where are the airstrikes to stem the invasion by the Serbian army? It becomes clear to all involved, including the local translator, Aida (Jasna Đuričić), that no air support is forthcoming.

The Serbian army takes over Srebrenica. Thousands of citizens are looking for shelter in the UN camp. Its capacity is maybe 4000, leaving a sea of 20,000 outside of its gates.

Negotiations take place among the Serbian army leaders, the UN peacekeepers (mostly Dutch), and a handful of local representatives. But the talks are, as it turns out, largely for show. Then we see the UN bureaucracy deal with the invading force, or try, violating its own rules.


Quo Vadis, the title of a 1951 film, means Where are you marching? And that is most applicable of Quo Vadis, Aida? Every one of the 54 reviews in Rotten Tomatoes was positive, as well as 88% of the general audience. It is a taut thriller, with Aida feeling frustrated that, even as an “insider,” she’s very limited in terms of what she can accomplish.

Anna Swanson of the Globe and Mail writes: “Refreshingly, this is a war drama that doesn’t hinge on indulgent or shameless violence. Instead, it focuses on the heart-wrenching devastation of more offhand cruelties.”

This is a few days during a war that took place in my lifetime that I know too little about. The fine acting, especially by Jasna Đuričić, and the excellent direction and editing make this an important, albeit sad, movie. I viewed this on Hulu.

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