No One's Child

in 19th Sofia International Film Festival

by Margarita Chapatte Lopez

Serbian cinema seems to be in great shape as excellent, experienced filmmakers become more visible internationally and newcomers are capable of both great filmmaking and good stories. It will surely be the case, too for Vuk Ršumovic, born in 1975 in Belgrade, where he studied writing for film, theatre, TV and radio at the Faculty of Drama Arts. He then wrote diverse screenplays for documentaries, TV fiction and animation films before starting his own production company. No One’s Child is his feature film debut in directing, though he is also an experienced dramaturg in major Serbian theatres.

Based on a true story, No One’s Child follows a wild boy found in the spring of 1988 by hunters into the deep of Bosnian mountain forests, apparently raised by wolves. He can barely stand up but he is named Haris and sent to an orphanage in Belgrade where he slowly finds his way into social integration, from his first words spoken and mostly due to becoming inseparable from another boy named Žika.

Becoming a socialised person is not easy at all for this main character, especially when losing loved ones is part of that process. In 1992, in the middle of the Bosnian war, local authorities forced him to go back there and he unintentionally finds himself with a rifle in his hands. He stays at the border where he continues to carry the cost of loss until, one night, in the middle of nowhere and for the first time of his life, he decides something by himself.

No One’s Child is a metaphor for Yugoslavian war, the nonsense of any kind of violence and last but not least the essence of human nature… in the sense of civilised ones becoming real human persons or not by just acting with manners in the middle of the ones that surround us, as part of society. The story in the film might remind us of The Wild Child (L’enfant sauvage, François Truffaut, 1970): same beginning, though No One’s Child develops a narrower and harder point of view. The Serbian child absolutely cannot understand why his everyday life is surrounded by evil. The child actor who performs the main character in the film, Denis Muric, succeeds through just his fixed gaze. His eyes provide the audience with a strong feeling of sadness, the sort that proves an unfair entourage and the fact that manhood must fight both a hostile outside and his own nature.

 Vuk Ršumovic has already won some international film prizes with his opera prima, as for example the Critics’ Week one and Fipresci Award at the last Venezia film festival and the New Voices/New Visions award at 2015 Palm Springs. No One’s Child is different from other feature films that focus on war-torn Yugoslavia, with a special care for childhood: the main protagonist holds a rifle and will shoot at the end, but no consequences are seen. Delicacy is always present when hard sequences are involved. Violence, nonsense cruelty and war are bad for everyone but for the young ones, the ones who are still not proper members of society, a crucial decision would forever change their lives in a happier way… even if their decision will not be the appropriate one for adults.

Edited by Tara Judah