Film Review: Fuse (2003) ironically deals with Bosnian-Serbian solidarity

Bosnian village fakes relationship with former Serb enemies for U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit.

A pimp and a prostitute work out the finer details for when Bill Clinton comes to town.(Photo: Trigon Film)

Pjer Žalica's 2003 award-winning film, Fuse (Gori Vatra), is a sardonic take on Muslim Bosnian villagers pretending to be scrupulous in curbing drug smuggling and prostitution. This is all done in preparation for American President Bill Clinton's invitation to become an honorary citizen, following the Bosnian-Serb war of the 1990s.

In the film, they fake a reconciliation with their arch-nemeses, the Serbs. Eventually, the Bosnian villagers grudgingly come to terms with the Serbs, as the two enemies laugh at how they were all able to pull off the fake preparations for Clinton in a hilarious, bittersweet ending.

The opening scene is heart wrenching and certainly a rude awakening that brings the viewer up to speed on the realities of the time and place, as a land mine blows off a young woman's legs. One watches, aghast, as the visceral scene unfolds with men and women crying and yelling.

This movie is quite touching in its dry humor and scenic shots of the villagers from the antagonistic ethnic groups, who bicker as the looming specter of Bill Clinton approaches as their "godfather."

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An interview with Fuse director, Pjer Žalica.

Tesanja, a Bosnian town, is the centerpiece of the chaos. Drug smugglers and cruel pimps pretend the prostitutes are gypsy singers. Zaim, a corrupt, alcoholic police chief, works with the pimp to play shell games with a bumbling American counterpart. The scene hops from one "comedy of errors" to another.

In a funny, moving scene in which the prostitutes are given an almost endearing, very human voice, they chat with each other about the year a human landed on the moon and how they hoped to win a lot of money in Bosnian jeopardy. The whole scene takes place while they're having sex with the police chief and their pimp.

The ping-pong of English and Bosnian in the scenes is quite entertaining, especially when the conniving mayor and police chief try to elude the weapons inspector by "playing" dumb.

The darker aspect of the movie is highlighted as a Bosnian man tries to find his son, who reportedly is still a slave in a Serbian mine. The father, a former police chief, has lost his mind due to the carnage and madness of the war and searches in vain for his son.

The man plans to take Bill Clinton as a hostage by using a bomb vest so he can get his son back. There is a poignant scene in which he talks with his dead son, who actually was shot as he fled the Serbs.

Fuse is poignantly shot, with deadpan acting, subtle lines of bittersweet humor and a cathartic dialogue between the survivors of the war on both sides, with tense scenes of drinking men verbally sparring about their loved ones that were lost in the war.

The Bosnian film won the Silver Leopard at Switzerland's Locarno International Film Festival and the Golden Star at Morocco's Marrakech International Film Festival in 2003. It also won the 2003 Best First Feature at Bosnia's Sarajevo Film Festival.

Fuse is available at the Killam Memorial Library at Dalhousie University.  

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