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It may be worth to add a short plot summary, as many people will never have heard of this film or its director, one of Germany’s most talented: “Sturm” is about Hannah Maynard, a prosecutor at the Den Haag court, seeking to find evidence against a Serbian general suspected of war crimes during the Serbian-Bosnian war. The key witness turns out to be less reliable than hoped for, but before the trial collapses, she finds another witness, sister  of the former, who seems to know more than she originally wanted to reveal. Maynard travels to Serbia and Bosnia, trying to find the truth behind everybody’s personally biased stories, in order to save her case (and her career) and gets entangled in a game of politics and family.

I have seen this film a hundred times… not this film specifically, but films with very similar story story lines. They are usually set in (or rather: after) World War II, sometimes Vietnam or Cambodia. Interestingly, I have never seen this with the background of the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Maybe I have just missed the many movies that were made in the course of the last 20 years about this atrocious war in the heart of Europe – or did nobody really dare to tackle it? Were producers shying away from what has always been considered a terribly complicated situation, with ethnic minorities, shifting national borders and obscure international alliances playing in?

Maybe so. In any case: it’s worth doing it. The Balkan war provides for interesting settings and characters, especially a German audience will not feel estranged, as so many refugees and later migrants have mingled in the German community and today are integral part of it. These people who got tortured, raped and killed during the war are people who were friends or family of our friends or colleagues. I am not sure whether this film already constitutes a movement, a widening of perspective beyond what Fatih Akin has established with his uncompromising new definition of what constitutes a German “Heimatfilm”, but I certainly hope so. I want to see more stories about these people who live between two worlds, I want to see more about how they are dealing with conflict and anger, and how they are fighting their fears to stand up in a trial that will expose too much of their self for comfort.

I have to add: this is by no means a perfect  movie. The drama at its core is played half-heartedly and brings about not too many surprises. The prosecutor is provided with a … say … home conflict that is a bit too convenient to be credible. A complete nuisance is the German dubbing: while the film starts off with people speaking their respective local language, at some point we are thrown into a Den Haag setting where everybody seems to speak German, with respective local flavor. Apparently the film was produced with an international cast, it eludes eludes eludes me why they have to mess its authentic international character up through this nonsensical (and poorly recorded and mixed, very flat) dubbing. Sorry, but a dubbed film always sounds a bit like a porn movie… and not in a good way …

Despite the flaws: a very interesting film, well worth checking out!

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