Serbia entry for the foreign language Oscar is a German co production starring young newcomer Filip Subaric.
Serbia is optimistically aiming that 23rd time the charm with their latest Foreign Language Oscar submission, writer director Goran Radovanovic slow burning drama Enclave . Set in Kosovo during the violent spring of 2004 the last serious aftershock of Yugoslavia war torn collapse it a very middling example of the conflict through children innocent eyes genre that often proves catnip to Academy voters.
But while the youthful cast is consistently engaging, they are ultimately ill served by a screenplay that goes quickly and confusingly downhill in the crucial final act. Winner of the Audience Award at the Moscow in June, this handsome looking, earnestly solemn Serbian German co production will nevertheless appeal to festivals favoring human rights themes and could also pop up at events aimed at junior audiences.
Because although the grim nature of events in Kosovo around the turn of the 21st century is made quite clear, Radovanovic prefers to keep violence and bloodshed off screen. The bulk of the action is presented as experienced by observant protagonist Nenad Filip Subaric, an intelligent and slightly introverted lad of around 12. Ethnically a Serb, he lives with his hard drinking father Voja Nebojsa Glogovac and ailing grandfather Milutin Meto Jovanovski in a village in northern Kosovo to be precise, Metohija their tiny enclave maintained and protected by United Nations KFOR troops.
Nenad rides in an armored car to and from the school where he seems to be the only pupil, and he has little involvement with the scruffy, football playing, Albanian speaking Kosovar kids who live nearby. One of the latter, fiery teen Bashkim Denis Muric, holds a particular grudge against the Serb population, whom he blames for the death of his father. Events conspire to bring Bashkim and Nenad together on a day when a wedding in the village coincides with Milutin funeral with potentially tragic, even catastrophic consequences.
The closest Serbia has come to Oscar recognition in their 22 previous attempts was via Srdjan Golubovic The Trap 2007, a noirish thriller which made the nine strong preliminary shortlist. That picture star Nebojsa Glogovac takes second billing here behind young newcomer Subaric in what is the first Serbian Oscar candidate for a decade to foreground juvenile characters. It was seen as something of a surprise choice when selected in Sept, the wise money having favored Vuk Rsumovic similarly kiddie centric No One Child already winner of more than a dozen notable awards on the festival circuit.
The face that links both productions is that of Muric, now 16, who — despite having much less to do than in No One Child emphatically confirms the arresting promise of that physically arduous debut. Muric is a precociously hard eyed, commanding presence here, with a natural intensity reminiscent of Lucas Black and Will Poulter in their short trouser days. And while Subaric is an appealing and sympathetic young hero, Muric is the name to remember, so forcefully does he transcend the limitations of a skimpily written role.