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» » Go West (2005)

Short summary

In the nineties the Yugoslavia Federation falls apart in bloody wars. Perpetual student Milan, a Serb from a patriarchal community and Kenan, a Muslim cellist, are a homosexual couple living in Sarajevo. Their lives, intimate and public, are shaken up by the aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose devastating consequences unfold in inter-ethnic hatred. Trapped in Sarajevo during the siege of the Serb forces, the lovers manage to flee to Milan's home village and there they take shelter, waiting for Milan's father, Ljubo, to find a way to the Netherlands. Witnessing the brutality of Serb forces and their hatred towards Muslims, Milan desperately improvises: he disguises Kenan as a woman and begins to present him as his wife, Milena, a secret discovered by Milan's best friend, Lunja. Milan is drafted into the army and the situation becomes almost unbearable for Kenan. His one companion, is Ranka, a waitress in a local café, a woman whose dark secrets terrify most of the villagers ...

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Felolak
    I saw this film tonight at the Image Out Film Festival in Rochester and what I saw is a powerful story about both love and hate reaching across ethnic and religious boundaries.

    The love is what Mario Drmec and Tarik Filipovic have for each other. Same sex couples have it bad enough there, but in this case Mario is a Moslem from Bosnia and Tarik is a Serb.

    The story is told to us in flashback by Mario being interviewed by a French journalist played by Jeanne Moreau. As Yugoslavia breaks apart the various ethnic groups resume all their ancient hatreds and start killing each other with vehemence as we all read in the Nineties.

    Mario in order to pass into the Christian Serbian area goes into drag. It seems as though the Christians check out the privates of all the males and if they're circumcised as Moslems have to do as well as Jews they're summarily shot. The ruse works, but the lovers have to continue the masquerade when they get to Tarik's village. Or at least until a helpful friend can obtain the necessary documents to go west to the other side of the Rhine in Europe. Of course when someone does discover the ruse there are unforeseen consequences.

    Yugoslavia itself was a creation of western European fatuity. Serbia was on the Allied side of World War I and they got a kind of hegemony over a whole lot of territory formerly belonging to both the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires. At Versailles the Serb king was made monarch over the whole polyglot nation and after World War II, a very charismatic leader named Josip Broz Tito led an independent Marxist/Socialist government.

    When Marshal Tito died, the country itself died. Held together by an extraordinary man the one thing Tito did not do was solve any ancient hatreds. What happens here happened all over what was Yugoslavia, only this story has gay angle to it.

    Love, even same sex love can bridge all kinds of boundaries if we're open to it. The friend who is helping the lovers urges them to go west to western Europe where they can live free and prosper. All they have there is ethnic hatred.

    One other very valuable lesson here is that the film does focus on the atrocities of the Serbs and the Bosnians. Remember this is now a decade where admittedly Moslems are doing some horrible things in many parts of the globe. I am glad that the villain here is not one religion, but a fanatical fundamentalist interpretation of any religion with which people can justify all kinds of barbarism.

    Ahmed Imamovic the director has received death threats from all sides in the former Yugoslavia for even creating a story involving gay people there. The man has risked his life for this powerful story, buy a ticket and don't miss it.
  • comment
    • Author: Terr
    Sad to say, the film's prediction that "they will continue to hate homosexuals" is coming true. I have just come from seeing this film at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Religious leaders in the former Yugoslavia have been condemning this film, because of the same-sex love story. It's hard for me to square some of the comments of critics with the film I just saw. This film speaks to the future of humanity itself. It is not just the love story between the two men in this film that matters--and it does matter, mightily--it is also the conflict between savagery and mercy in the Serbian townspeople and the Muslim protagonist. In the midst of horrific brutality, we are reminded of the immense power of compassion, love, and even sometimes, humor. This film isn't just about war, it's also about peace. It needs to be seen around the world. I hope it will be.
  • comment
    • Author: Gravelblade
    ...than the ID card, at least in this time and place. Milan's ownership of one and Kenan's lack thereof fuel the plot to have Kenan disguise himself as a woman so he won't have to 'show his credentials' and get himself summarily shot.

    The combination of 10% cinema and historical genocide makes for a tense and edgy ride, especially when the new 'couple' is welcomed home and a wedding is performed. Not much affection is seen between the characters as everyone is on a war-footing, with an all-pervasive fear coloring everyone's actions. The love triangle that later develops does not end well, as so few do. The lives of the characters does not improve, nor do we expect it to based on the sad and tragic history of the heirs to Yugoslavia's breakup.

    Perhaps my favorite moment is when Milan's father Ljubo states that they just should get rid of the Serbs. And the Croats. And the Bosnians. So then "decent people could enjoy this beautiful country".

    A pretty good watch and a great statement on peoples' rights, regardless of gender, orientation, or ethnicity.
  • comment
    • Author: Coiriel
    This portrayal of the oppression and discrimination that existed in Bosnia-Herz... is eye opening. Not only was the lead hated and oppressed because he was Muslim, but also he was further despised because he was gay. I would rate this movie even more important than America's Brokeback Mountain. I am openly stating that this is the best movie I have ever seen at Toronto's InsideOut Film Festival throughout it's 16 year run. Congratulations to this film's creators. You had me riveted to the screen from the moment the film opened. I am waiting to find out where I can purchase this movie on DVD to add it to my personal library.
  • comment
    • Author: Ese
    I saw this film and discussion with regiseur at Int. Film Festival 2005 in Bratislava. There were some moments in the film especially at the beginning that confused me - I did not know if it is a comedy or tragedy... The great thing is that such film was created in BiH & Serbia. Homosexuality is not a usual topic there and I hope this film could move things forward and force people at Balcan to think and talk about tolerance with connection to homosexuals and in connection with other nationalities too. I have seen some documentaries from Belegrad about life of gays there. It was very depressing and the message was the same like in this film - go west, don't stay at Balcan. I hope that things are going to improve in Balcan countries and gay-rights will be closer to European standards or they will be at least improving that way. Tomas
  • comment
    • Author: Aloo
    Before i saw the movie i read some comments about it... stating it's condemned by several groups of people in Bosnia. I totally understand why, without spoiling anything, the overall message of the movie is shocking. Not only it gives a statement for the gay people in Bosnia, but also one for the whole population.

    This movie is not for a broader range of people. In fact.. you will need to respect the way it is told in order to like it. But if you do, then it's genius......

    And look for some nice metaphors which are a honor to Sergio Leone.

    This movie is available on DVD in Bosnia and other Balkan countries, so if you are in that region you know you can find it.
  • comment
    • Author: Qudanilyr
    Somebody smart once said something to the effect if there is a need for a prologue, than director did not do his job correctly. I cannot agree more. Unfortunately Go West spends first two and a half minutes on prologue, boring prologue to be precise. Completely unnecessary. From there on, the movie spends more time on unnecessary details, more voice from the off, more explanations of unnecessary details, watering down the film I am sure would mean a lot if done as it should.

    It must have been hard to come up with the idea of two homosexuals running away from the Sarajevo, because Sarajevo was never eager on homosexuals. I have spent there more than half of my life and I have met only two openly gay man. Compare that to my current place of living where I know at least a dozen openly gay man. Attacking homophobia in Sarajevo is very dangerous and brave undertaking, and for that I need to congratulate Ahmed Imamovic and Enver Puska. That was brave. Unfortunately brave writers and directors do not equal a great movie. However, this one is a good movie, a bit clumsy in some areas, but overall quite watchable.

    If you expect something like Queer as Folk, than you will be disappointed. No sex scenes to that level. I guess because actors and the rest of the crew were quite scared for touching the topic. Well, that would be all but Tarik Filipovic, one of two main actors, who played homosexual in another Bosnian movie, dark comedy "Dobro Ustimani Mrtvaci". I guess the fact he lives in Zagreb, Croatia gives him more freedom to take on roles that bring hate mail and death threats that could eventuate into something awful if he was living near those who wrote them.

    Watching this movie will annoy you. Sometimes the characters do not act as sane people would, and everything is a bit stretched, but this movie has other good points and is important maybe not as a great movie, but as a first movie that tackles homosexual love in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • comment
    • Author: Insanity
    I got to say that I am pretty disappointed and I definitely wonder how is it possible that this movie got 'The Best Foreign Movie Award"?! What bugs me more, is that most people who've seen this movie believe that it is based on historical facts. Since, I have very open-minded friends on all three sides (Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian) I've learned that not everything was black&white in Bosnian war, and there were idiots on every side, but what I've seen in this movie is completely ridiculous! The movie is one-sided story, in this case Muslim side of story, written and directed by Ahmed Imamovic (Bosnian Muslim) with only one purpose: To make Serbs look like crazy beasts! This is complete propaganda and has nothing to do with truth. At the beginning of the movie, that is pretty obvious, young Bosnian homosexual Muslim Kenan is telling the story : "There are Serbs who hate Muslims. There are Muslims who don't like Serbs. And there are Croats who sometimes hate sometimes don't hate Muslims" How ignorant that sentence is?! I have Serbian friends and they hang out with Muslims and Croats, with homosexuals and everyone else, and it's the same story on the other two sides, they all hang out and trying to forget the war, that was terrible for all of them, since they all lost someone they care about in that war. I am pretty sick of one-sided stories, especially when they promote hatred based on lies and this movie is the perfect example of that.
  • comment
    • Author: Gralinda
    My initial impressions of 'Go West' were that it would primarily be a fairly damning commentary on the Yugoslav war – a harsh, but sobering drama that would leave the viewer in no doubt as to the futility of ethnic and religious hatred, and indeed war itself. Which indeed it us, but it is also a condemnation of homophobia, while at the same time, the sheer absurdity of the fleeing couple's predicament elevates 'Go West's discourse into black comedy and farce – something that writers Ahmed Imamovic and Enver Puska expertly mesh with the general message of social meltdown and the way it destroyed Bosnia and Herzegovina - without one theme compromising the other.

    Horror and madness must come before absurdity of course, and there is definitely nothing to laugh at during the opening sequences, where the two protagonists carry on with their lives in Sarajevo before they are overwhelmed by the turmoil. Director Imamovic weaves genuine newsreel footage of the conflict into his specially-shot sequences of Serbian militia terrorising the locals and gunning down the Muslim population (with soldiers forcing men's pants down in search of tell-tale circumcisions). As Milan and Kenan's lives are quickly overturned, forcing them into flight, the audience is given a street-level snapshot of how the conflict might have been experienced firsthand.

    Fuelled by such life-or-death desperation, I found myself wondering if indeed the real-life Muslim homosexuals might too have disguised themselves as married women in order to escape execution. As Kenan himself states at the beginning, "On the Balkans, it's easier to bear if someone in the family is a murderer rather than a faggot (sic)." Under pressure from all sides, much of the tension in 'Go West' therefore derives from we the audience wondering just how long he will be able to maintain his disguise while besieged by threats on all sides (some not necessarily malicious) to expose the truth. Actor Mario Drmac plays the would-be transvestite with great skill, giving Kenan a quiet strength, though portraying him on a knife-edge as the drama escalates. 'Go West' is ultimately his story, showing the lengths the natives must go through in order to survive the war: humiliation, desperation, and above all, loss, leaving only courage or madness to dictate how one lives their remaining life.

    The writers are also keen to point out the ridiculousness of the predicament, not only through Kenan's constant struggle to ensure his 'breasts' appear convincing or the stubble from his face, but in the whole cast of villagers whose world ranges from witchcraft and superstition to the local priest more concerned with political rhetoric than the salvation of the soul. Some of the characters are obvious comic relief, while in other cases, the humour creeps up on you with the forced jollity of the inhabitants that causes events to spiral further out of control. Ljubo is perhaps the strongest example of this. Wonderfully played by veteran actor Rade Serbedzija, the one-time Texan rancher fights daily against resignation and melancholy in the face of so much loss, unable to see that his good intentions are making things harder. His son Milan, played by Tarik Filipovic, sits somewhere between the two people he cares about most: warm and all-embracing, yet feeling as though only he truly understands the sacrifices that must be made. In contrast, Ranka, in a strong performance by Mirjana Karanovic, has far baser desires, which threaten to unravel the entire social fabric. Tragically, only the viewer is ultimately able to see the lighter side of their predicament.

    While I think the blend of drama and black humour hold together well, there are some aspects of the script that don't entirely work as well as they could. The witchcraft element, for example, seems to be there simply to build up the potential threat of certain characters, yet ultimately doesn't seem to have any other meaning beyond this. Elsewhere, the murder of certain antagonists seems out-of-character for those enacting them, and done simply to pull the writers out of a hole during the all-important climax. This may sound a little odd in a film where senseless killing would be considered inevitable, but perhaps readers will know what I mean when they watch for themselves.

    Ultimately however, these elements do not cause serious damage to the film's central premise, nor fear and madness of one of the 20th Century's most brutal civil wars. It does not try to be universal commentary on the fall of the republic, but instead 'zoom in' to a snapshot of the personal tragedy and persecution of those perceived to be socially abhorrent, which of course, they were not – merely ordinary people trying to survive. It reminds me of similarly-themed Albanian film, 'Slogans', also a drama/black comedy exploring the absurdity borne of a society descending into madness and painting itself into a corner. In 'Go West' however, there is a much higher body count.

    This, and the many twists and turns of the plot, may cause the viewer to wonder if anyone will ultimately get out alive. In the end, 'Go West' delivers a bittersweet conclusion and a very poignant message. Hope survives, though many will have to die first – a not incongruous ending for film with war as its subject. Definitely recommended.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Mario Drmac Mario Drmac - Kenan
    Tarik Filipovic Tarik Filipovic - Milan
    Rade Serbedzija Rade Serbedzija - Ljubo
    Mirjana Karanovic Mirjana Karanovic - Ranka
    Haris Burina Haris Burina - Lunjo
    Jeanne Moreau Jeanne Moreau - Novinar
    Nermin Tulic Nermin Tulic - Pop Nemanja
    Almedin Leleta Almedin Leleta - Alen
    Almir Kurt Almir Kurt - Drago
    Milan Pavlovic Milan Pavlovic - Milo
    Orijana Kuncic Orijana Kuncic - Posilna
    Mirsad Zulic Mirsad Zulic - Napadac
    Mihajlo Mrvaljevic Mihajlo Mrvaljevic - Anto (as Miso Mrvaljevic)
    Selma Muhedinovic Selma Muhedinovic - Marija
    Rade Colovic Rade Colovic - Razvodnik
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