No Man's Land

Though France’s “Amelie,” a huge box office hit all over the world, including the U.S., was expected to triumph, the surprise winner of both the Golden Globes and the Foreign Language Oscar was “No Man’s Land.”

In May 2001, the Cannes Film Festival, where the picture world-premiered, was instrumental in elevating the visibility of “No Man’s Land.” At the closing ceremonies, the film earned an eight-minute standing ovation and the screenplay prize. “Cannes created this film and this director,” said producer Cedomir Kolar.

It was an original but tough movie whose narrative combines ironic drama and black comedy in dealing with the Bosnian war through the interaction of two men, representing opposite sides of the long, bloody conflict.

For Kolar, the picture, a co-production between France, Italy, Belgium, the U.K., and Solvenia, is “really no man’s land.” In France, No Man’s Land won the Cesar Award for best first film. In Belgium, the prize for best Belgian film. And in Italy it has been adopted as the country’s standard-bearer after Nanni Moretti’s 2000 Cannes Festival winner, The Son’s Room, failed to secure a nomination.

The Oscar nomination helped to sell the audacious film in smaller territories, such as Portugal, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The box-office figures have been O.K. for this sort of tough fare. But the movie broke records in Slovenia and Serbia, as well as Bosnia. The only blip was Croatia, where it grossed just $16,000, even though the film’s two lead actors are local residents.

Since the war-ravaged Bosnia has hardly any cinemas left, No Man’s Land’s grosses there, $215,000, should be considered an extraordinary if not an impossible achievement. The film’s distributor, Obala, took two Dolby projectors on a tour and screened the film in the country’s sports halls and public arenas.

The other three foreign contenders in 2001 were: Son of the Bride, Elling, and Lagaan. In Norway, Elling is the all-time number one local picture, grossing a combined $5.9 million across the Scandinavian territories.