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Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (Esma's Secret - Grbavica) (2007)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 43
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 1

An emotionally blunt and gripping drama, Grbavica deftly explores the emotional toll that all wars take upon those who survive them.


Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 19
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 0

An emotionally blunt and gripping drama, Grbavica deftly explores the emotional toll that all wars take upon those who survive them.



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 2,897

My Rating

Movie Info

A woman sees her own traumatic past reflected in the actions of her teenage daughter in this drama from first-time writer and director Jasmila Zbanic. Esma (Mirjana Karanovic) is a single mother trying to raise her teenage daughter, Sara (Luna Mijovic), in Sarajevo in the wake of war. While Esma works as a barmaid at a nightclub run by Saran (Bogdan Diklic), a man on the wrong side of the law, she has trouble making ends meet, and receives occasional benefits payments from a support group for


Art House & International, Drama

Jun 12, 2007

Strand Releasing - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (50) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (1) | DVD (6)

Grbavica increases in power as it progresses. It's a movie about the ways in which people yearn for healing and about the many obstacles that work to prevent it.

May 18, 2007
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like its music, the film's emotions proceed from lament to screaming screed to chorus of hope.

May 4, 2007 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

While Grbavica concerns a legacy of hatred, it's also optimistic about Bosnia's physical and emotional reconstruction. If the film's final image doesn't move you, you'd better check your pulse.

April 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The portrayal of a wounded society is compelling, and the film ends on a very modestly hopeful note, appropriate for a country where the 'dreams' have been mostly painful.

March 30, 2007 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
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The admirable feminist agenda occasionally trips up the narrative, but the film's performances keep it on track.

March 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Director] Zbanic makes the awful seem commonplace and vice versa, while adding ominous shadows to Esma's untold backstory. The war might be over, but fear and hope remain locked in a rapturous stranglehold amidst the rubble.

May 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

This is a slice of Bosnian life, a powerful peek at average people trying to live their average lives despite the extraordinary and unthinkable things that lie in their past.

May 4, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Lovely in its understatement, quietly but insistently demanding that Esma's story, and those of too many other women, finally be told.

May 2, 2007
Philadelphia Weekly

There's really nothing new about the way Grbavica looks at the mother-daughter dynamic. But it's still refreshing to see any film that does so with such honesty and realism.

April 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Zbanic telegraphs parts of the drama a little too easily, but she draws heartbreaking performances from Karanovic and Mijovic.

April 27, 2007
Salt Lake Tribune

The kind of well-meaning film that actually gives well-meaning films a good name.

April 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Jasmila Zbanic also deserves our admiration for casting Karanovic, and for making a film of great power about the fate of that ultimate contradiction -- a child born out of hatred.

April 9, 2007 Full Review Source:

...a little powerhouse of a movie whose slow gentle build reaches quite a stunning conclusion.

March 10, 2007 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

The aftermath of the Bosnian civil war is a rich vein of storytelling material and newcomer writer/director Zbanic mines it well.

March 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

A poignant and emotionally gripping story of a Bosnian single parent struggling to survive in Sarajevo and carrying deep physical and spiritual wounds from the 1990s wars.

February 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (Esma's Secret - Grbavica)

A fantastic film that like so many others has the most simple of premises but is rich in character complexities and emotions. War torn Bosnia is relegated to the background which makes it all the more powerful, the way mass graves and dead husbands/fathers as ordinarily as the weather really amplifies how this is normal for so many people. It makes it horrifying without ever showing such events. Instead we are shown a sweet story of a mother attempting to get enough money so her daughter can go on a trip. On the way both Esma and her daughter Sara come into contact with male confidantes, and like the rest of the film it doesn't boil these down to simple romances. It expresses the secrets and insecurities mother and daughter have with each other. The film is powerful and forever engrossing making even the urban views of Grbavica look desolately beautiful thanks the the cinematography. A real masterpiece.
September 11, 2008

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]In "Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams," Esma(Mirjana Karanovic), a survivor of the Bosnian Genocide, is a seamstress in Sarajevo by day who takes a night job as a waitress at a bar owned by Saran(Bogdan Diklic) to make ends meet. However, the second job still does not give her enough money to pay for her daughter Sara's(Luna Mijovic) field trip. So it helps that her friend Sabina(Jasna Ornela Beri) is willing to look after her daughter, even though like most teenagers, she is acting out. [/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]While "Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams" is not earth shattering, it is certainly compelling enough in its exploration of a country that is still trying to come together after the atrocities committed more than a decade before. It certainly does not help matters that Esma's generation refuses to speak about their experiences.(The only reason she attends group meetings is to collect a government check.) To the viewer, it may seem very clear what she has gone through but to her daughter with a limited sense of history, it is a totally different matter. And maybe that is what the field trip is meant to rectify.[/font]
November 14, 2008
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic made an excellent movie about the true story of woman during the war in former Yugoslavia. Many Bosnian women had been raped by Serb soldiers, and this movie showed this issue in an unusual way.The touching story was very simple but showed in a delicate way through the relationship of an abused mother and her rebel teenage daughter. All the performances were fantastic but Mirjana Karanovic as Esma and the direction of Jasmila Zbanic were awesome and the result of the movie will certainly makes me want to watch it twice."
April 30, 2010
Daisy Maduro

Super Reviewer

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