Red Hill -- Film Review

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Teen masochism looks lighthearted and even fun in young Serbian filmmaker Nikola Lezaic's "Red Hills," which misses the mark psychologically.

Although the two leads are agreeable, the story of how they spent their last summer before separating for work and college is repetitive, and their dangerous rough-housing lacks all apparent motivation. Winner of the best film prize at the recent Sarajevo Film Festival, it might draw younger audiences at festivals, but ticket sales seem a long way off.

The title refers to a huge copper mine that has been the livelihood of a provincial Serbian town for generations; now it is being privatized amid demonstrations and riots. This social background is only mentioned in passing, however, totally upstaged by the foolish antics of Toda (Marko Todorovic), Stefan (Stefan Dordevic) and their skateboarding pals.

Both boys are reckless, but Toda -- who is heading for the unemployment line -- is a lot more into self-torture than the college-bent Stefan. Initially their painful "stunts" are a lark done in front of Stefan's camera, a record of individual bravado and their immature sense of humor.

But after Stefan's casual summer girlfriend (Dunja Kovacevic) drives a wedge in their friendship, Toda starts jumping off bridges and piercing his face with large pins, as well as provoking fights in which he is guaranteed to get beaten up.

Lezaic, who wrote, directed and edited the film, is not anxious to suggest reasons behind his heroes' actions; one imagines a deep-seated anger that expresses itself as violence against the self rather than others, but that's just one interpretation. Todorovic, who won the best actor award in Sarajevo, shows a promising depth beneath his crooked clown smile, and Dordevic is bolstered by his resemblance to a young, long-haired Tom Cruise.

Venue: Sarajevo Film Festival
Production: Film House Kiselo Dete, Vision Team
Cast: Marko Todorovic, Stefan Dordevic, Dunja Kovacevic, Marko Milenkovic, Nenad Stanisavljevic, Nenad Ivanovic
Director-screenwriter-editor: Nikola Lezaic
Producers: Uros Tomic, Mina Dukic, Nikola Lezaic, Dragan Durkovic
Director of photography: Milos Jacimovic
Production designer: Nikola Bercek
Costume designer: Biljana Grgur
Sales agent: Visit Films
No rating, 100 minutes
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