Behind The Stories

NPR's Gjelten Advised Angelina Jolie's Bosnian War Film

Tom Gjelten and Angelina Jolie at the New York press conference for In The Land of Blood and Honey. i i

Tom Gjelten and Angelina Jolie at the New York press conference for In The Land of Blood and Honey. Courtesy of FilmDistrict hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of FilmDistrict
Tom Gjelten and Angelina Jolie at the New York press conference for In The Land of Blood and Honey.

Tom Gjelten and Angelina Jolie at the New York press conference for In The Land of Blood and Honey.

Courtesy of FilmDistrict

While working on her directorial and screenwriting debut, Angelina Jolie sought counsel from one of NPR's own: correspondent Tom Gjelten. The stark and gripping In the Land of Blood and Honey, which opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, is set during the Bosnian War, and follows the tragic story of a Bosnian Muslim woman and her suitor-turned-captor, a Serbian police officer. The film holds little back, depicting the full brutality of this war, particularly the violent crimes against women.

Given his extensive reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1996, Tom was contacted by producers during the making of the film, and provided counsel to Jolie. He also wrote and edited the radio newscasts that air during the movie, along with the opening and closing text.

Tom says, of his involvement: "I was something of a fact-checker. Angelina and her producer wanted the film to be as accurate as possible, and they asked about such minor details as the rate of interethnic marriage in Sarajevo before the war. When I was reporting from Bosnia, I felt the war deserved more attention than it generally got, so it was gratifying to find a Hollywood star who wanted to tell the story again after all these years."

Gjelten moderates a conversation with Jolie and seven of her lead actors. i i

Gjelten moderates a conversation with Jolie and seven of her lead actors. Courtesy of FilmDistrict hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of FilmDistrict
Gjelten moderates a conversation with Jolie and seven of her lead actors.

Gjelten moderates a conversation with Jolie and seven of her lead actors.

Courtesy of FilmDistrict

For the New York premiere earlier this month, Tom was tapped to moderate a conversation with Jolie and seven of the film's stars at a press conference. He asked the actors, most of whom lived through the war, to share an experience that shaped their performances. The room fell silent as they spoke – some for the first time – of seeing a parent detained as a young child; of sustaining minor injuries in cross-fire; of fighting as a Bosnian soldier, and nearly two decades later, acting as one on the opposite side of the conflict. With this film, Jolie has brought such real-life accounts, unflinchingly, to the screen.

Listen Friday for an interview with the actress-turned-director, with host Robert Siegel on All Things Considered.

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