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  • Pierre Smith Khanna

On Danis Tanovics’ “No Man’s Land”


A stunning film about the Serbian war, shot almost as a documentary. A dark comedy brilliantly acted out. The story line is simple; two soldiers from the opposite camps find themselves stuck in a trench in no man's land. They cannot move anywhere as the fields surrounding them are mined. They manage to get noticed and both camps respectively call the UN for assistance in the matter (there is an excellent scene in which both soldiers jump frantically along the trench in boxers, each brandishing a white shirt).

Other than being entertaining, this war satire depicts with emotion the issues that the UN faces in pacification processes across the world. The many restraints in UN policies and use of power are at times extremely frustrating, certainly for the citizens and soldiers concerned; and also for outsiders aware of the situation, from journalists to UN troops. I think this is the most powerful and important theme of the film, although it does span over other subjects such as the obvious hypocrisy of war, how soldiers live through it, and its relation with the media (another great scene where the newsroom in Europe is contacting the reporter on location, ignorantly asking her to film inside the trench and interview the soldiers in order to get a good story - when it was made very clear to anybody present on the scene that such things were unconceivable). I liked this representation of the many "layers" that exist in reality. What seems obvious to some is unknown to others. Although we attempt to present reality as best as we can through news and footage, it never is truly replicated. Add to this Perspective, which features in any news report, and the notion of reality becomes truly distorted.

The Media is the second most important theme; in the film’s context it plays an important role by forcing the UN to make an affirmative decision that subsequently enabled UN troops present to take action and help the two soldiers. The role of the media is of course limited; what the film attempts to show us is that when used correctly, it can effectively push enough weigh to consequently resolve pressing issues. In such contexts the media is a great tool that enables a “democratic” proceeding - by which I mean that if the issue is brought to the public eye, then whoever is in charge of resolving that issue will do so with more thought and responsibility - as this isn't always the case.

The debate about the media is an extremely important one. As a principle, the media stands out to be the greatest tool to spread information and hence awareness to the widest possible audience. However, the enormous content that the media is in control of is submitted to a process of selection and editing, and all that content is filtered through. The end result is what we see on our screens and in our papers. The only way media can effectively be used productively (by which I mean beneficial for the audience) is by submitting this ongoing selection and editing to deeper analysis and control. For it is controlled by the major media outfits, and should really be controlled by a conscious conglomeration concerned with society and its welfare. This is no profoundly radical idea in essence - who decides what goes on our screens should be making wiser decisions based on what is going to be good for those watching - not what is going to be good for numbers and TV ratings.

The media, which is a tool almost as powerful as Education and Family is sadly being manipulated by the profit industry. How can such a powerful tool be in the hands of people who's priority is to seek greater profits, as opposed to people who seek to improve the global community by spreading un-biased awareness and truth?

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