There are two conditions you must accept before we proceed. First, you must be willing to submerge yourself in the hard facts of the Bosnian War: the merciless ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks at the hands of Serb forces, men and women separated and taken to camps or killed, women systematically raped, psychological torture, and genocide. Second, you must forget everything you’ve read or seen in the tabloid magazines about Angelina Jolie.

Done? Okay, the story concerns Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and Danijel (Goran Kostic), who we meet in a Bosnian nightclub, circa 1992, as they share a first dance—which is interrupted by a bomb blast. Fast-forward a few months and we’re at the onset of war. Serbian forces are securing territory in Eastern Bosnia, rounding up men and women or just shooting them for kicks. Ajla is herded to a camp where Danijel has been promoted via nepotism to captain in the Army of Republika Srpska. Here he somewhat protects her while he’s not out drawing crosshairs on the enemy and failing to pull the trigger (until he doesn’t). Upon the news that he’s being transferred, Danijel tells Ajla how to escape, which she does, joining a small band of hidden refugees. (As Honey would have you believe, the opposition was nothing more than a ragtag network of such groups until the UN finally interceded in 1995.)

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More than two decades after then secretary of state James Baker famously said of the war, “We don’t have a dog in this fight,” Jolie, who both wrote and directed Honey, clearly does. But to her credit, she largely avoids cliché throughout the film—it’s even scripted in native tongue, with English subtitles!—which, combined with the subject matter, makes for rather refreshing Hollywood product.

Nevertheless, critics are getting all huffy that this is an activist film and therefore not art (an absurd notion to begin with), but fuck it—if a vanity project/Trojan Horse of Reality driven by the name of a Hollywood star is what it takes to smack sense into some heads around here, let’s open the gate. recommended

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