by Gergana Doncheva

Among the short films screened within the framework of the 21st Sarajevo Film Festival, the début of the young Bosnian director Una Gunjak is very impressive. Her The Chicken visualizes a simple human story inspired by the personal memories and experience of the filmmaker connected with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the nineties. Six-year-old Selma receives as a gift for her birthday a live chicken provided by her father who is in the army. The girl is emotionally attached to the bird and she is deeply disappointed to know that the chicken will be the main course during her birthday supper. Selma spontaneously decides to release the prisoner, however this act has very dramatic consequences: the mother of the character goes outside in order to chase the missing chicken and consequently turns into a target of a sniper’s fire. Selma and her older sister observe that horrible picture with a growing fear. At the end, the members of the family are together again enjoying their dinner.
What is important regarding The Chicken is, primarily, the interesting approach through which the traumatic events from the period of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia have been referred to. The topic of the war from the early nineties was, and to some extent, still is, a widely exploited theme in cinema, and as a result it is a great challenge to contribute something new to this area. Una Gunjak discovered the appropriate formula representing the hard times in war torn Bosnia through the eyes of a young girl. In 1997, Ademir Kenović applied a similar narrative mechanism in his unforgettable feature movie Perfect Circle, in which two orphaned children develop a close relationship with an old alcoholic poet. Putting the accent on the personal micro-world of a human being is the best way to evade the trap of the political interpretations and inevitable judgments. The filmmaker understands that the pain suffered by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina is still very strong and finds a delicate manner in which to resurrect those memories in the minds of her compatriots. However, The Chicken could be read as a universal message about growing up and the lessons linked with this usually tough process. In other words, Selma learns her first difficult lesson in the episode when her mother is very close to real death. I would like especially to mention as a significant advantage of the film its original and well made editing which contributes substantially to the balance between storytelling and the cinematic language used in order to convey the author's ideas. Besides, the juvenile director is experienced enough to elaborate successfully a strong dramaturgical basis and what is more, the presence of the little actresses is persuading and profoundly moving. It is a matter of time, I believe, Una Gunjak to reveal her full potential working on her next bigger projects.