Angelina Jolie Discusses Her New Movie

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Robert Siegel talks with Angelina Jolie about In the Land of Blood and Honey, her new film set during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. Jolie does not act in the movie, but she wrote and directed it.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

"In The Land of Blood and Honey" is the name of Angelina Jolie's new movie about the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. That war was marked by terrible sectarian violence against civilians, massacres, mass rape. The movie focuses on a Bosnian Serb militia unit and its brutal campaign against the Muslims with whom they've lived side by side for centuries and it's the story of a relationship between a Serb officer, Danijel, and a Muslim woman named Ajla.

Angelina Jolie does not act in this movie. She wrote it and directed it. Here's the moment when Danijel warns his father, a Serb general, that the cruelties they're committing will not go unnoticed.


GORAN KOSTIC: (as Danijel) You think that after the war you'll live normally? I don't. The UN has already sent these people to Croatia. They will not turn their backs.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) Of course, they see, but they will do nothing. Serbs are the only serious army this part of Europe. They know we are the partners to make deals with. They need us. They will not fight us.

SIEGEL: Viewers who saw "In the Land of Blood and Honey" at very early screenings actually heard those lines. But when it opens in U.S. movie theaters, we will hear this instead.


KOSTIC: (as Danijel) (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGEL: The same actors, but they're speaking in their native language. The actors in the film are all from what we used to call Yugoslavia. They all speak Serbo-Croatian and the movie is being released in that language with English subtitles.

Angelina Jolie joins us now from Los Angeles. Welcome to the program.

ANGELINA JOLIE: Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: And, first, I'd like you to explain, first, how you were in the position to release this either in English or in Serbo-Croatian and why you decided the latter.

JOLIE: Well, our goal was always to make the film as authentic as possible, even though it's not a documentary or a political statement. You know, we wanted to tell a dramatic story about this time in history, so we cast all people who have been affected personally by the war, lived through the war, many of them inside the siege. And we wanted it to be authentic. And, therefore, it belonged to them and their language and should be shot in their language.

And then there was another problem, which was - this is an unpopular subject matter and we wanted to reach as many audiences as possible, even those who don't like foreign films or subtitled movies. So, we set at the task like it was an educational film and to try to put it in different languages for different audiences. But, of course, the film really truly belongs in and the film stands, in my view, at the authentic version, not the English.

SIEGEL: But you mean when you shot every scene, it was shot both in English and in Serbo-Croatian?

JOLIE: It was. I couldn't believe I was asking these poor actors to not only recreate the horrors of the memories of the war and go through such dramatic scenes. But on top of it, they had to shoot both. So we'd do a few scenes in one language. Usually, we'd start with English because it would help the crew, who was English speaking, to understand what was happening and then we would switch.

SIEGEL: But in making the decision to do it with subtitles, did you feel that you were scaling down the potential audience for the film?

JOLIE: You know, how this business works is a lot of times, it's - people tell you before you make a film, this is an unpopular subject matter and then they say, in order to get this done, you're going to have to cast people who are known actors. And all the way, you keep saying: No, I really believe that this is the way it should be.

And then they said the American public is going to want the English version, period. And we polled the American people and we had screenings. And the American public liked both. They were open to just enough that I could prove to the producers that the American people were wanting to hear something done in its authentic language during a time in history.

You know, I think it's a crime sometimes that you underestimate the audience to think that they can't handle that or they aren't ready for that or they don't want that.

SIEGEL: I was wondering - the cast, of course, had lived through this. How much did they contribute, actually, to the dialogue? Did they change much as you were shooting?

JOLIE: They didn't change that much, but what they changed was significant. It was important. For example, there's a scene where all of the Bosnian Muslims are together. And at some point towards the end, they're talking about Serbians and somebody says, well, they're not all bad. My mother's Serbian. And then somebody says, well, I mean (unintelligible) Serbs, not Serbs. Not all Serbs are bad.

And this was something that these Bosnian Muslims spoke about and said, this is very important to us that we have this in the film because this is how we feel and we are mixed. We are Boslavians, so we are part Serb, as well, many of us and we don't feel this way about all Serb people and it's very important that Serb people are not viewed that way.

SIEGEL: I have to admit that, in watching the film, when I realized that this story involves a romantic relationship between a Serb man, an officer in the militia, and a Muslim woman, his captive. I feared for a Hollywood ending here, a Hollywood treatment.


SIEGEL: Without giving too much away, I'll just say that my fears were allayed by the end of the movie. But when you approached this subject, did you feel you needed that story of a relationship, some romantic line to hook us into this?

JOLIE: Well, what's interesting is I think a lot of people are seeing it differently and some people see that the relationship ends very, very early and they start to see the survival and the chess game. Some people are caught up in the romantic side of it and what they believe or what they hope because they're more romantic people.

But it was never the intention of making something that is about a relationship in war. It was actually - I set out to do this film because of my frustrations of lack of intervention. Having spent 10 years traveling the world and visiting with people in post-conflict situations and being very frustrated and often thinking, God, if this would have ended this much sooner or if this could have been prevented, this society would not be this broken.

And now, we have all of this to fix, all of this to heal and so much - so many people with so many wounds. And that's how Bosnia is today, and so much could have been prevented.

SIEGEL: But do you want - do you want people to walk out of the movie theater and when they next see a dispatch out of Syria to say: We should intervene. We should stop this before it...

JOLIE: Well, it's not just about - we should get involved. Intervention is this idea of, you know, some people just think of it as boots on the ground. You know, to me, intervention is - we knew this was coming in Bosnia and there was a way of diplomatic intervention or ways of knowing what to do or what not to do or who to protect. It's just the political will to do something to make sure we're trying to protect as many people as possible and their basic human rights.

But to get to your point of why a couple, it wasn't a couple as much as the idea was I wanted to do a film that showed a possibility of certain relationships that - and how the war would affect and warp and change these relationships. So, a father and a son, lovers, a mother, a child, sisters, friends - they're all in the film. And the central characters are only a man and a woman because that's what most people relate to and tend to focus on and identify with. But they're all in the film and it's how they all intertwine and how they are all changed forever by the end of the film.

SIEGEL: Well, Angelina Jolie, thanks a lot for talking with us about your film.

JOLIE: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Angelina Jolie produced, wrote and directed the new film about the war in Bosnia. It's called "In the Land of Blood and Honey."


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