"In the Land of Blood and Honey" premieres at Holocaust Memorial Museum
Angelina Jolie (not a Jewess but a definite do-gooder) visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum last week to premiere In the Land of Blood and Honey, a film she wrote, directed, and co-produced.
The film, Jolie’s directorial debut, is set in war-torn Bosnia in the early 1990s, and though it is not about the Holocaust, its title alone draws clear parallels between events in the former Yugoslavia and the horrors of WWII. It begins as a love story of sorts, the fictionalized tale of Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim artist, and a Danijel, a Bosnian Serb policeman, who are on a date when a bomb goes off inside the club where they’re spending their evening. Ajla is eventually taken prisoner with other Muslim Serbian women and is repeatedly raped and made witness to brutal atrocities. Eventually, she becomes the captor and willing lover of Danijel, who is, of course, on the opposite side of the ethnic cleansing against her people.
Writes Jewish Journal Editor Susan Freudenheim, who attended the premiere, “Blood and Honey proved the most gripping and memorable film I’ve seen in years. I have not stopped thinking about Jolie’s remarkably intelligent depiction of very complex characters and her truly vivid understanding of this war’s violence against women, in particular.”
To this point, Kathleen A. McHugh, director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women, notes that the film is not just important as a tool for remembering past atrocities but as warning of what could happen in the future – and what is, in fact, happening right now in places like Sudan and elsewhere across the globe. “This film was made so that this human rights crisis won’t be forgotten and to remind the world that the situation there is still very fragile.” McHugh said. “Women are frequently the most vulnerable in civil wars, and they are the recipients of some of the worst outcomes of ethnic strife and violence."
The word “genocide," coined in 1943 to describe atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, today extends beyond the Holocaust to encompass such atrocities across the globe. Fifty years after the world promised “Never again” to allow such atrocities to take place, the international community largely turned its back on Bosnia amidst similar ethnic cleansing, and it continues to do the same as genocidal activities take place across the world.
Mike Abramowitz, director of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience, wrote in an email announcing the debut of In the Land of Blood and Honey, “The Holocaust survivors who founded the Museum sought to honor the memory of the victims by working to prevent future genocides. I hope you'll take this opportunity to learn more about our work, educate others that genocide can be prevented, and join us in creating the future that Holocaust memory demands.”
As a people intimately acquainted with genocide, Jews should feel obligated to take action when others face similar threats. Noteworthy Jewish leaders Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, have joined other international figures in pledging to help end and prevent genocide. If you want to learn more about how you can do the same, sign the Museum’s pledge and explore its Genocide page to learn more, educate others, and take action.