IN SEARCH OF OSCAR

Croatia: Donkey, Antonio Nuic

By Kathleen McInnis

 

Donkey is Croatia’s submission for the 2010 Oscar. Unless one is well-versed in the Balkan War, there is a lot to assume when watching Donkey.

 

On the face of it, the film seems to be about a disenfranchised son, Boro, taking his family to his aunt and uncle’s place in the country. While the wife, Jasna, is under the illusion this is just a short stay, Boro appears to have another agenda in mind. Their young son, Luka, wants a holiday and is anxious and shy at the same time about playing with the other children.

 

As events unfold, it becomes somewhat clearer that Boro has great issues with his father, whom he blames for his mother’s death. Boro also seems to have a great deal of unresolved guilt surrounding his relationship with his brother who was wounded in the war but managed to leave Sarajevo. But all the relationships in this family are broken—and with such muddied sub-text it becomes next to impossible to sort them out in any interesting way.

 

As a social commentary, the film lacks universality or even basic geographical context. The family has come to Boro’s home village in Herzegovina; however, to an outsider the on-going elitist commentary about living in Zagreb versus the country doesn’t have much impact. Once the donkey arrives, oh yes—there is a donkey—the family dynamics begin to take on some familiar characteristics, but by this point it’s too little too late.

 

Surprisingly to me, a number of middle-aged men left the screening feeling quite emotional. It’s possible this film has a gender divide that escaped my notice. But I fear what the film really has is an audience disconnect.

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