by Jasmila Zbanic



Single mother Esma lives with her twelve-year-old daughter Sara in Sarajevo's Grbavica neighborhood, where life is still being reconstructed after the 1990s Yugo-slav wars. Unable to make ends meet with the meager government aid she receives, Esma takes a job as a cocktail waitress in a nightclub. Working all night is difficult for Esma and it also forces her to reluctantly spend less time with her daughter. Still haunted by violent events in her past, Esma attends group therapy sessions at the local Women's Center. In addition to relying on her best friend Sabina, Esma also finds a kindred spirit in Pelda, a compassionate male co-worker from the nightclub. Feisty tomboy Sara begins to put soccer aside as she develops a close friendship with classmate Samir. The two sensitive young teenagers feel a strong bond because both lost their fathers in the war. But Samir is surprised to hear Sara doesn't know the details of her father's noble death.
Sara's father becomes an issue when she requires the certificate proving he died a shaheed, a war martyr, so that she can receive a discount for an upcoming school trip. Esma claims acquiring the certificate is difficult since his body has yet to be found. Meanwhile, Esma searches desperately to borrow money to pay for Sara's trip. Confused Sara becomes violently upset when some classmates tease her for not being on the list of martyrs' children. Realizing her mother has paid full price for the school trip, Sara aggressively demands the truth. Esma breaks down and brutally explains how the girl was conceived through rape in a POW camp. As painful as their confrontation is, it is Esma's first real step toward overcoming her deep trauma. Despite Sara's hurt, there is still an opening for a renewed relationship between mother and daughter.


»Grbavica« is Jasmila Zbanic's first feature film. Zbanic began making films in 1997 when she founded the artist's association "Deblokada", through which she produced, wrote and directed numerous documentaries, video works and shorts. Her work has been screened in film festivals and exhibitions worldwide. Highlights include her short »Birthday« (part of the omnibus film »Lost & Found«), a look at the different paths taken by two young girls - one Croatian, one Bosniak; the 2002 documentary »Red Rubber Boots«, which follows Bosnian mothers searching for their children; and documentary »Images from the corner«, a moving personal account of a young woman seriously wounded during the war who watched in pain as a foreign photographer snap pictures of her.
Born in Sarajevo in 1974, Zbanic is a graduate of the her native city's Academy of Dramatic Arts, department for theater and film directing. Before filmmaking, she also worked as a puppeteer in the Vermont-based "Bread and Puppet" Theater and as a clown in a Lee De Long workshop.


Mirjana Karanovic - Esma
Luna Mijovic - Sara
Leon Lucev - Pelda
Kenan Catic a. o. - Samir


Screenplay & director: Jasmila Zbanic
Director of photography: Christine A. Maier
Costume designer: Lejla Hodzic
Editor: Niki Mossböck
Producers: Barbara Albert, Damir Ibrahimovic, Bruno Wagner
Co-producers: Boris Michalski, Damir Rihtaric
Commissioning editor: Jörg Schneider (ZDF/arte)

Technical Data

Format: 35 mm / 25fps / 1:1.85 / Colour / Dolby Digital
Length: 90 min
Original Language: Bosnian

Original title: Grbavica


Click here for the »Grbavica« artwork



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