Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)

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Released 15-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 98:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Winterbottom
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Stephen Dillane
Woody Harrelson
Marisa Tomei
Emira Nusevic
Kerry Fox
Goran Visnjic
James Nesbitt
Emily Lloyd
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Adrian Johnston


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German
English Titling
German Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The disintegration of the former Yugoslavia has been a defining period in European history in the last decade, a misunderstood and yet oft-commented upon conflict which saw intrastate warfare drawn across ethnic lines in a previously cosmopolitan society. When Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared their independence, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav military, the JNA, made a grab for territory, conducting a program of ethnic cleansing, predominantly the forced expulsion of civilians. During this campaign in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the city of Sarajevo which, while Muslim dominated, was nevertheless a cosmopolitan city before the war, was laid to siege by the JNA and the various paramilitary units that sprang up when the jails were let out. Refusing to be evacuated, as this would aid in the ethnic cleansing that the Serbs were trying to perpetrate in the region, the Bosnian Muslims dug in around the city and endured persistent sniper attacks and random shelling.

    This film, Welcome To Sarajevo, starts with a BBC film crew getting caught up in a sniper attack during a wedding and having their ratings slashed by American freelance journalist Flynn (Woody Harrelson), who walks into the scene to save an injured woman. Michael Henderson (Stephen Dillane) is haunted by the image of the alter boy who flees the scene. Henderson’s crew – which consists of himself, his manager Jane (Kerry Fox) and cameraman Gregg (James Nesbitt) – acquire a new driver, a Bosnian Muslim named Risto (Goran Visnjic from E.R.). It is on their first run that they enter the scene of a mortar attack at a bread queue. Amongst the bloody body parts, Henderson finds an orphaned child whom he takes to the hospital. Trying to find some cause in all this brutality, Henderson decides to focus his attention on an orphanage on the front line to try and get some support for bringing these children out of the war zone. He enlists the help of an aid worker Nina (Marissa Tomei), whose organisation is prepared to find shelter for children who have family in neighbouring countries. It is during this exodus that Henderson decides to take one of the children he made a promise to, Emira (Emira Nusevic), and raise her in the UK, despite knowing just how illegal this is.

    Director Michael Winterbottom has infused this film with a frenetic blend of video-camera footage and gritty stock footage along with glossy widescreen film in a visual onslaught which is perhaps only comparable to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. In content, however, the film this is most reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, but even that is a distant cousin. Put bluntly, Welcome To Sarajevo is a unique experience, in both its content and presentation, and one you will not shortly forget.

    I think that I got more out of this because I was already familiar with the history. I found myself explaining some of the history to the people I was watching this with because they were having difficulty framing the conflict. However, this is a profoundly affecting film regardless of what you know about the conflict. Henderson’s cause is one that is easy to empathise with, but the graphic portrayal of the madness of ethnic intrastate warfare is something that this film manages to capture unlike any other on the Balkan war. For that reason alone, this is a must see.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original aspect ratio.

    Given the persistent blending of video, archive and cinema footage, there is an overall inconsistency that is quite intentional, and very Oliver Stone. The cinematic work is crisp, clean and perfect. The archival footage is grainy and flecked with dirt. The video footage intentionally exhibits all those nasty video faults.

    What can one say overall, then? The image is exactly as it was intended to look. Cut up, mashed about and then sometimes brutally clear.

    I noticed no MPEG artefacts and nothing noteworthy in the way of film-to-video artefacts.

    There was a line down the left side of the screen at 6:31 that probably should not have been there and a couple of lines in the middle of the screen at 17:57 that should not have been there. Otherwise, there was not much in the way of dirt on the cinematic print, just what was on the archival footage.

    Subtitles are available in English and in German. They are white with a black border. I noticed no substantial deviation from the dialogue.

    The cover of this DVD is wrong – this is only a single-layered disc. Consequently, there is no dual-layer pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks available – an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track and a German 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track. As is often the case with overdub tracks, the removal of the dialogue track takes with it a whole lot of ambient noise and so the German track sounds considerably thinner than the English track.

    Overall, I found this track to be a little inconsistent mostly where the dialogue was concerned. I found myself straining to hear the lines sometimes and turning the sound way up to hear what was being said, which then turned out to be too loud when the explosions or the music kicked in. I am not sure if this was partly intentional, but it did get a little annoying. I noticed no audio sync problems.

    As for the general range of the track, it is quite good, with the score by Adrian Johnston filling up the surround field quite well.

    The surrounds get a decent workout, but much of the sound field is still forward driven. There are some great directional cues.

    The subwoofer was used to add impact to the impact of shelling, to some of the music and the odd close up gunshot.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has the theme playing in 2.0 Dolby Stereo.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is not yet available in the US.

    I think what we have here is identical to the R2 UK Release which is also released in Germany.

Summary

    Welcome To Sarajevo is an excellent film giving rare insight into a nasty little war that will remain in the European psyche for a long time to come. It does require a little background information to get the most out of it, and I think Winterbottom’s film falls down a little there by not providing more information before the opening credits. However, it is still an excellent film and this is merely a minor personal criticism.

    The video is quite good, elegantly reproducing the effect that the director was after.

    Sound is a touch inconsistent where the dialogue is concerned, but by and large still above average.

    The extras are sadly non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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