Cannes Film Festival, Critics' Week

Any film that comes out of Bosnia-Herzegovina these days is in a sense a war film, one that deals with the fall-out from a conflict that is still fresh in the memory. Aida Begic's debut feature "Snow" ("Snijeg") is a vital movie that will draw warm praise in festivals and should perform well in arthouses around the world.

In 1997, two years after the fighting has ended, the war has spared only the aged in the remote mountain hamlet of Slavno in eastern Bosnia. The very young and half a dozen women who live hoping against hope that their husbands, fathers and sons may yet return. Like her relatives and neighbors, Alma (Zana Marjanovic), a devout, modest but stubborn young Muslim widow, ekes out a precarious living cultivating and selling fruit and vegetables, mostly plums. This is a world bound by tradition, barely touched by telephones or television, in which the absence of men hangs heavily.

When a German property developer, escorted by a local Serb who had fought against the villagers only a few years ago, offers to buy up all their land, several of the woman jump at the prospect of escaping their isolation. The case against is presented by Alma. The issues she raises are of universal interest, relating to memory and loss, to loyalty to the past and the need to move on, to the claims of tradition and the imperatives of modernity.

There is nothing preachy or abstract about this film which, through its focus on the daily routines of country life, fully engages the spectator with its characters. Begic proceeds at a measured pace but with a sure touch. The resolution comes after the fate of the missing men has been revealed, with a brief epilogue set a year after the action closes.

Production companies: Mamafilm, Rohfilm, Les Films de l'Apres-Midi
Cast: Zana Marjanovic, Jasna Ornela Bery, Sadzida Setic, Vesna Masic, Emir Hadzihafizbegovic, Irena Malamuhi, Jelena Kordic.
Director: Aida Begic.
Screenwriters: Aida Begic, Elma Tataragic.
Producer: Elma Tataragic, Benny Drechsel, Karsten Stoeter, Francois D'Artemare.
Photography: Erol Zubcevic.
Editor: Miralem S. Zubcevic.
Production design: Vedran Hrustanovic.
Music: Igor Camo.
Sales: Pyramide International
No rating, 99 minutes.