Angelina Jolie's movie about the Bosnian war brought back harsh and powerful memories on Thursday at a screening in the city where many of the most brutal events of the 1992-95 conflict occurred.
"I am speechless, I feel sick," Rukija Vrckalo, who survived 43 months of the siege of Sarajevo under constant bombardment, said as she left a cinema in the city where Jolie's "In the Land of Blood and Honey" was shown one day before its U.S. premiere.
"When grenades were exploding in the film, I felt as if the war were still going on," she added.
Others left the cinema in silence, refusing to comment because they were overwhelmed with emotions after the film reminded them of the horrors of the bloodiest conflict in post- World War Two Europe.
"The film is realistic, well done," said a woman who gave only her first name, Mirha. "We, who have been through the war, are feeling very bad now, it's just as if we are going through all that again."
Jolie has allowed the Bosnian capital to screen the film, her directorial debut, for a week before it officially opens in cinemas in Bosnia and the wider region in February 2012, when she plans to visit Bosnia again.
"The upcoming ... premiere ... means more to me than any premiere I have been associated with. My family and I look forward to flying to Bosnia in February and sharing this moment with the film's extraordinary cast," she said in a statement.
Jolie has said she didn't plan on directing a movie. But the more she learned about the 1990s Bosnia war, the more she felt responsible for bringing it home to her generation. [ID:nN1E7BK0G0]
The movie sparked controversy even before it was filmed, and objections from a group of Bosnian female war victims to elements of the plot last year forced the Oscar-winning actress to shoot most of the film in nearby Hungary instead of Bosnia.
The film tells the story of the war through an ambiguous relationship between a man and a woman, whose affection becomes hostage to their respective ethnic groups.
Danijel, a Bosnian Serb, and Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim, meet in Sarajevo before the war, where they live normal lives. When they meet later, she is in a Bosnian Serb detention camp where Danijel serves as a senior officer.
They attempt to maintain their special relationship against a backdrop of war, killings and rapes, and pressures from families, which proves impossible.
"Why were you not born as a Serb?" Danijel cries after they have made love. He is under pressure from his father, a Serb general, to end the embarrassing relationship.
"Get rid of her, that's an evil blood," his father says.
Most of the Sarajevo audience were Bosnian Muslims, who were the biggest victims of the war in which more than 100,000 were killed. Some Bosnian Serbs have called for the film to be banned, saying it portrays them as villains.
But other Serbs said they want the film to be shown.
"I am against any bans of art acts," said Nedeljko Zelenovic, the director of the cultural center in the Serb-held section of Sarajevo. "The time and audience will give the final judgment."
Kevin Sullivan, who worked as a foreign correspondent in Bosnia during the war, said Jolie's movie made an important contribution to understanding the conflict.
"I thought it was a very powerful and successful drama, it explored issues in a very authentic way and avoided many of the cliches that one may have expected," Sullivan said.
The film has been honored by the Producers Guild of America for its portrayal of social issues and will be given the 2012 Stanley Kramer Award. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has nominated it for a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film.