"Go West, Young Man" By Vuk Perovic

in 7th Bratislava International Film Festival

by Vuk Perovic

It is likely that for years to come directors from Bosnia and Herzegovina will have one main topic – the civil war which raged there in the 90’s. However, in his first feature film, Go West, director Ahmed Imamovic, adds another sensitive topic to the cruel context of war: homosexual love. Imamovic develops a controversial story about two homosexuals, of different nationalities; a Serb, Milan (Tarik Filipovic) and a Muslim, Kenan (Mario Drmac), who want to flee war torn Bosnia for Holland. Milan and Kenan manage to escape from Sarajevo, thanks to Milan’s dressing up as a woman. They reach a remote and backward village, where Milan discovers that he must stick to his appearance.

The narrator of this story is Kenan, a musician who plays the cello, which Imamovic uses to skillfully present a war story from a very private angle. He depicts a war-torn Bosnia, and a Serbian village, as it is seen by the sensitive Kenan, which gives him an excuse to use a visual style much like that of Spaghetti Westerns together with a totally unreal setting for the story. Moreover, Imamovic uses Kenan’s confession to caricature both the war and the characters.

Imamovic depicts the Serb village much like a Wild West boondocks, in which the good guy is Milan’s father (a very effective Rade Serbedzija), who returned from Texas. The father’s character is used as a sort of international balance to stress the subtle message that on both sides of a war there are normal people.

It is Serbedzija’s impressive performance that stresses the key dialogue in this movie. But Imamovic doesn’t strictly follow the genre framework set by Sergio Leone, to whom Go West is dedicated. In fact, he toys with the Western genre solely for the purpose of achieving a surreal setting, a place in which a saloon is called ‘Sejn’ (Shane), and an orthodox church is made of wood.

Go West starts off as a war melodrama and as a love story about two homosexuals, but turns into a farcical black comedy when the two main characters reach the Serb village. The inevitable, tragic ending triggers a new genre turnaround. What helps Imamovic express his ideas are the mature performances by the experienced actors Rade Serbedzija and Mirjana Karanovic, as well as the performances of the younger actors Mario Drmac and the very convincing Tarik Filipovic. In Imamovic’s approach, especially in his visual style, one can recognise his youthful interests, his recollections of growing up in ex-Yugoslavia, in which cult status was reserved for Sergio Leone’s westerns, Italian comic strip ‘Allan Ford’ (about an orthodox priest in a wheelchair) and, of course, the legendary film Shane, which is used as the name of the village cafe.

Not one to run away from sending political messages to neighbouring countries, Imamovic uses a cameo appearance by Jeanne Moreau to send the message to European audiences that what transpired during the war in ex-Yugoslavia is not easy to understand.

Imamovic’s film is burdened by the very same problems encountered in almost all first films. The director’’s intention to show everything he knows, as well as the occasional pretentiousness, take away from his ability to crystallize his ideas and messages. On the other hand, in his visual approach, Imamovic shows exceptional talent, which proves that, in the future, a fertile film industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina will have a lot more to offer.