Welcome to Sarajevo

Archival footage and footage doctored to look archival allow director Michael Winterbottom to use reality without giving up the advantages of drama as he tells the story of a journalist from England (Stephen Dillane) who decides to help a nine-year-old girl leave war-torn Sarajevo. The movie's multiple points of view urge us not to be more sympathetic to the plight of an individual than the plight of a group, and the narrative, based on the experiences of real people and dramatized with charismatic actors, seems like exemplary politically responsible storytelling. But a major theme is hopelessly oversimplified when the girl's mother, who'd abandoned her years before, tries to intervene, and the story's reductive idea of the difference between good and bad parenting enables it to avoid examining the difference between an altruistic act and a patronizing one—a complex issue easily buried in the indisputable horrors of war. Based in part on the book about his experiences by reporter Michael Nicholson; written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, with Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei.

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