Posted: Tue., Aug. 30, 2005, 8:37pm PT

By Deborah Young

In the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars, three young couples struggle against prejudice and lingering hatred to create lives together. "Borderline Lovers" is a sharply observed study of mixed marriage today between Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Director Miroslav Mandic picks ordinary working folk from Sarajevo, Mostar and Dubrovnik to show how love is sewing the torn social fabric back together. Savvy fest audiences will get the point, though other viewers will probably need background explanation.

A Catholic woman from Croatian Dubrovnik and her Orthodox boyfriend from Montenegro, a Serbian biker and his Bosnian Muslim girlfriend, and a traveling salesman and his wife are likeable and often funny as they try to gently persuade their families that love conquers all. The parents fear a repeat of what happened during the war, when couples from different ethnic backgrounds often broke up. The arrival of grandchildren does much to patch up old wounds. Casual asides are most revealing, like the young men at a body-building gym who are able to joke about having shot at each other during the war. Pic subtly projects the message that Balkan youth has to move on.

Camera (color), Mirsad Herovic, Erol Zubcevic; editors, Miralem Zubcevic, Krasimira Velickova; music, Sasa Losic; sound, Vedad Hodzic. Reviewed at Sarajevo Film Festival (regional documentaries), Aug. 25, 2005. (Also in Locarno Film Festival -- competing video.) Running time: 84 MIN.

Date in print: Mon., Sep. 5, 2005, Weekly

Movie Stars in a Former War Zone: Sarajevo Film Festival Thrives For Locals and Industry Attendees

by Wendy Mitchell

Bosnian documentary "Borderline Lovers," which won a human rights jury special mention, was a moving look at couples who faced obstacles because of their different backgrounds (Serbian-Muslim; Montenegrin-Croatian). "Borderline Lovers" was a fascinating, moving, and an eye-opening look at the personal politics of the region.

Reel Movie

BORDERLINE LOVERS (Bosnia-Herzegovina/Czech Republic)

A documentary about three couples who defy the odds - "what are now frontiers were once frontlines" - and dare to be in love, divided by culture and society, sometimes opposed by family, war and religion. Borderline Lovers is an absorbing look into the lives of a group of common people made uncommonly courageous by their decision to love each other. The couples wrestle with heavy issues - parents who refuse to acknowledge unions due to different geographical regions, the threat of violence and assault at borders between Croatia and Montenegro, and buried family resentments from the recent past rooted in violent opposition. Aside from the personal liberation embraced by the participants and the director, the film is an excellent cultural glimpse by director Miroslav Mandic, who never lets the matter-of-fact titular lovers sink into pathos or despair. An at-times fascinating document about living with consequences, against odds and for yourself - tall order in any culture and remarkably expressed here. (Serbo-Croation with English subtitles) (LS)

"Borderline Lovers" (Bosnia-Herzegovina/Czech Republic) 5 p.m. (AMC): In Sarajevo native Miroslav Mandic's superb, unsettling documentary, postwar rancor is evident in the hard stares directed at the three inter-ethnic couples. "Don't worry, your mother-in-law is not going to poison you," teases a young Bosnian as her Serbian husband tastes an unfamiliar dish. Deft camera work, rhythmic editing and Sasa Losic's versatile score (including faux Muzak) create a remarkable rapport with these brave lovers, if not their wary parents. In an after-credits coda -- a closeup of a crystal ball -- Mandic gives the last word to a soothsayer. In Serbo-Croatian, with English subtitles.

In the ruins of the former Yugoslavia, on either side of the frontiers which which were still front lines just ten years before, three couples try to sustain their relationships. Transcending the religious divides, racial tensions and wounds left by the war, these men and women refuse to have their feelings dictated by lines drawn arbitrarily on a map. Anesa lives in the eastern section of Mostar and Dragan in the west, both of them love motor-biking and tattoos but their parents refuse to accept their relationship. For three years Ozrenka and Marko have been meeting on the border of Montenegro and Croatia since Marko fears being beaten up if his car number plates are recognised. Valibor's father was a soldier in the Serbian army that laid siege to Adila's family. Madly in love, the couple decided to marry regardless. A standard-bearer for empowerment and freedom, Ljubav na granici is a passionate declaration of love.