; 400x60

click here to see our uploads list
click for new
Film Reviews, Festivale movie section, a reel life
click here for current front page

Festivale online magazine, June issue
Welcome to Sarajevo movie review
Welcome to Sarajevo

If any film has perfectly pitched exactly the right characters for both Stephan Dillane and Woody Harrelson, Welcome to Sarajevo would be it: both as arrogant yet genuinely devoted reporters.

Dillane sums up both of their roles with the smug quote "We're not here to help, we're here to report." Sadly, they both end up woefully incomplete performances - Dillane's due to the film's disoriented script, Harrelson's because of limited screen time. Perfect in concept perhaps, but all over the place in execution (chalk that down for a good description of the film also).

Movie Poster, Welcome to Sarajevo, Festivale movie review

Amazon.com logo
Search for:
In Association with Amazon.co.uk
Search For:
UK's largest videos store
Shortly after the opening credits, we witness a group of citizens on their way to a wedding. Unexpectedly, one of them is shot dead by an unseen sniper. The press are there in no time, working from a distance - taking photographs and pointing cameras. Led by Michael Henderson (Dillane), these brave reporters scour the streets of Sarajevo, searching for stories that will not only fare well in ratings but also bring home a powerful message that something needs to be done.

They soon discover that the western world is concerned with other matters, illustrated when their report comes in second place to Fergie's divorce. And when UN troops arrive in the war-torn city, one soldier offers little inspiration by pointing out that "Sarajevo is only the 14th most dangerous place on Earth."

Welcome to Sarajevo will no doubt find an audience of content critics and audiences alike, who will no doubt dub the film as a powerful, horrifically realistic documentary. I grudgingly agree to some extent with that statement - the film is powerful and realistic - but only as a documentary. When director Michael Winterbottom attempts to incorporate an emotional core to the story - subsequently distracting us from his Big Political Message - most of the strength he builds in the film's opening half hour is lost.

Marisa Tomei, Welcome to Sarajevo, Festivale movie review
I cannot understand how on Earth Winterbottom could let the plot decline so severely - maybe this is due to the film's writing (based on the novel Natasha's Story), but even then, Welcome to Sarajevo could have been anyone's story and still have worked well. The maverick American journalist Flynn (Harrelson) would have made a great central character; whilst cameraman Gregg (James Nesbitt) and native driver Risto (Goran Visnjic) are at times very intriguing to watch. This is not to say that the main character in the film, Henderson, is not wonderfully portrayed - he is - but his tale is not conceived enough to have a lasting impact.

The emotional core of the story is centered on Henderson becoming personally attached to a young orphan, and whilst this is potentially riveting stuff, the benefits of a well-written screenplay simply are not here. Frank Cottrell Boyce (and the novel's author, Michael Nicholson) has written a complex, beaming documentary but a crumbling, apathetic drama. Welcome to Sarajevo tries too hard to be a contemporary film - Winterbottom has made sure that it has clear-cut film "necessities," with a definite focal story and obvious supporting roles. Ironically, a documentary type creation would have been much more successful for this kind of subject matter. There was no need for a focal story when there were countless civilian lives to explore, and no need to define a main role when every journalist character had a fascinating story to tell.

For a film that pitches at the right note but executes way off mark, we can perhaps respect the fact that Welcome to Sarajevo may have been victim to mainstream cliches had it fallen on lesser hands. But Stephan Dillane is just too talented for this type of work; ditto for Woody Harrelson and Michael Winterbottom. All may have their heart in the right place, but Welcome to Sarajevo is a film that pitches but not hits, thus drastically reducing the impact of it's Big Political Message.

Click here to buy films from one of the online stores in Festivale's on-line shopping mall Review © copyright Luke Buckmaster

See also:
For credits and official site details, click here.
Search Festivale for more

From 0 stars (bomb), to 5 stars (a masterpiece): 2 stars Australian theatrical release date: June 25, 1998

For credits and official site details, click here.
Search Festivale for more

Bookmark and Share

Like us on facebook

Send your comments or review
Check out what's happening in Reel Life

Enter movie, TV show, or person
Provided by Internet Movie Database.
Just the facts:

Title: Welcome to Sarajevo (1998)
Written by: Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on the book Natasha's Story by Michael Nicholson
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Produced by:
Edited by:
Director of Photography:

The Players: Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Emira Nusevic, Kerry Fox, Goran Visnjic, Emily Lloyd, James Nesbitt
Official website
For session times of current films, use the cinema listings on the Movie links page. For scheduled release dates, see the coming attractions section.
Bookmark and Share

Like us on facebook

A Reel Life, the Festivale film sectionMovie Reviews IndexClick here to go to our links to movie sitesContact us at Festivale
Movie images, sounds, and video clips are solely owned by their respective companies.
No other uses are permitted without the prior written consent of owner.
Use of the material in violation of the foregoing may result in civil and/or criminal penalties.


Festivale Online Magazine
Celebrate everything!

ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
disclaimers | contact the editor | Festivale revision history

: Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia : copyright © Festivale 1998 All rights reserved
Filed:30-Jun-1998 : Last updated: : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
Entire site refreshed: Dec 2008-Feb 2009 | Site URL transferred: Jan 2005 (previously www.festivale.webcentral.com.au)

Report a bug

Movies by month, coming attractions, Australian movie release datesIndex of movie reviewscontents of current FestivaleA Reel Life movie section