Directed by: #MelissaSkirboll
Written by: #PennyJackson
“Greetings from Sarajevo” comes the vengeance-filled line from steely-eyed Hana (Dina Manganaris), a young Bosnian woman, as she faces down – gun in hand – Stanislav (Liam Mitchell), the man responsible for raping her family and destroying their home. Hana has come to America for this very reason, after Sofia (Kathryn Kates), a relative(?) and fellow victim, spots Stanislav sat at a bus stop in Times Square. Now a trained assassin, Hana has come for revenge.
There’s a confidence that permeates this movie: it’s in the narrative structure; it’s in the character writing; it’s in the direction. But nowhere is it more apparent than in Manganaris’ unfaltering depiction of revenge incarnate—Hana. The way she carries herself rings with echoes of Jodie Comer’s outstanding portrayal of Villanelle (Killing Eve). There’s an elegant composure that belies her penchant for violence, but, hidden not very deep below the surface, is the cold haughtiness of a contract killer. Where Manganaris is calm and collected, Kates (as Sofia) is brimming with hatred: the memories of that day are still fresh; the embitterment it caused is still strong; the yearning for revenge still lies heavy and unsated within her, and she isn’t afraid to show it.
Fittingly, there’s a distinctly feminal undercurrent running through the movie. The two women are, quite rightly so, at the centre of this 10-minute long short film, which delves into peoples’ (in)ability to cope with, and process, trauma; in this case, rape. Driven by excellent, equanimous direction (Melissa Skirboll), and superb writing (by Penny Jackson) – but which does falter slightly towards the end of the film – Greetings from Sarajevo resonates with feminal energy and delivers an unapologetically feminine perspective. And it’s all the better for it.
The filmmaking prowess continues with the film’s superlative cinematography (Noah Friedman), which introduces our central characters with a neat finesse rarely seen. And, while it’s simple in its composition, this is also what makes it work so well. There’s no excessive glitz and glam here; no needless attempt to punch above its weight, just solid, well-constructed cinematography and narrative-lead/supporting camerawork. My only real gripe with the movie is the ending. It’s hard to get into without venturing into spoiler territory, but it essentially leaves in ambiguity, which is fine. I prefer it when a movie leaves me to dwell on what may or may not have happened. But it’s the fact that it doesn’t fully explain or justify the ambiguity. We’re kind of just left wondering: ‘Well, why?’
Greetings from Sarajevo is a solid piece of filmmaking; a terrific thriller with a gripping premise and captivating lead performance from Dina Manganaris - in only her second film role, I might add! But the true essence of the movie lies with Melissa Skirboll’s direction and Penny Jackson’s writing. Both of which work in absolute harmony, creating a film which, like its main character, radiates with an assertive self-assurance.