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52nd San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Thursday, April 30, 2009
6:30 p.m. Snow
Aida Begic (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Germany/France/
Iran, 2008)

(Snijeg). A remote Bosnian village of widows and orphans provides the atmospheric setting of Aida Begic’s magical debut feature, which earned the prestigious Grand Prix in Cannes’s Critic’s Week sidebar. Two years after the Dayton Accord ended Yugoslavia’s brutal ethnic wars, there is still no closure in the mountaintop town of Sladno; its women and orphaned children are simultaneously there, and not there. Physically they work themselves into the ground, harvesting fruit, making jams, and weaving carpets, but mentally and emotionally they are trapped in time, still wondering about the fate of their husbands, fathers, and sons, nearly all of whom disappeared in the war. Into this town of widows and shadows come two well-manicured, Euro’d-up Serbs, offering to buy out the remaining villagers for some unexplained business venture—a cleansing by economic rather than military means. Their offer may promise a better future, but it demands a break with the past; as the first snow begins to fall, new decisions must be made and previous ones finally revealed. Her camera lingering on hands darting over looms or fingers covered in jams and dirt, Begic has a keen eye for the sheer physicality of women’s work, but tempers the film’s remarkable feel for environment with the echo of something more metaphysical and poetic, like a boy whose hair grows long overnight, or the fields and barely lit rooms where ghosts and memories dwell.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Begic, Elma Tataragic. Photographed by Erol Zubcevic. With Zana Marjanovic, Jasna Ornela Bery, Sadzida Setic, Vesna Masic. (99 mins)