Two men on a crowded London bus suddenly recognize each other and begin a brawl that will land them in side-by-side hospital beds. Once neighbors in a small Bosnian town, this Serb and Croat grew into bitter enemies and their hatred remains intact even after emigrating to England as political refugees.
In writer-director Jasmin Dizdar’s ironically titled Beautiful People, their pitched (and often comic) battle is merely one expression of the lingering effects of the brutal civil war. Dizdar, born in Bosnia, educated in Prague and now a British citizen, has created an ambitious, high-energy and downright messy look at a host of war-scarred characters inexorably drawn to Brits whose own lives are in varying states of collapse.
During the painful dissolution of his marriage, Dr. Mouldy (Nicholas Farrell) counsels a young man (Radoslav Youroukov) whose pregnant wife (Walentine Giorgiewa) was gang-raped by enemy soldiers. Hospital intern Portia Thornton (Charlotte Coleman) introduces her new love, the sweet-natured Pero (Edin Dzandzanovic), to her upper-crust family (including a Tory member of Parliament). Layabout, football hooligan and heroin-user Griffin Midge (Danny Nussbaum) gets a jolt of real hardship when he inadvertently lands in Bosnia and visits a makeshift hospital with bullet-dodging United Nations peacekeepers.
The London of Beautiful People is a multicultural hodgepodge where established outsiders like a Scottish war correspondent (who develops "Bosnia syndrome" by identifying too strongly with the victimized), a Welsh firebomber and an Indian welfare official serve as examples of assimilation for the new immigrants.
Dizdar overstuffs the film with so many characters and situations that the challenge becomes sorting them out, yet by the film’s hope-filled conclusion, he’s managed to find a sense of order – and peace – amid the chaos.
Dizdar doesn’t assign blame for what happened in Bosnia to any specific group. Between the participants and those who stood around and let it happen, he finds enough guilt to go around.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.