Angelina Jolie’s drama about the Bosnian War finally has a title, but it’s not one she came to easily.
That’s partly because it’s not an easy story. “It’s a heavy film,” she tells EW at the Cannes Film Festival. “You want to find that title that really helps the audience know what they’re walking into.”
Today she figured it out …
It’s now called: In the Land of Blood and Honey.
Jolie, who wrote and directed the film, had to settle on a name – and fast – when producer Graham King’s distribution arm FilmDistrict announced plans today to release it Dec. 23.
Blood and Honey, which she shot last October in Eastern Europe, focuses on a young Serbian man (played by Goran Kostic) and a Bosnian-Muslim woman (actress Zana Marjanovic) who begin a romance before the ethnic war of 1992 pulls them apart and ravages the former Yugoslavia.
Though she’s making her writing and directing debut, Jolie does not act in it. The film was made entirely with a local cast, and scenes were shot simultaneously in English and the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language known as BHS, so there will be a version of the film in each language.
For months, it has been known only as the untitled Angelina Jolie Bosnian War Movie, and she told EW that coming up with a final name was “driving me crazy. I have lists and lists of titles all over.”
As she closes in on a final cut – “I’m moments away. I had to leave the editing room to come here” – she began surveying test audiences on titles. “You become very surprised because you think it’s this and they say it’s definitely a film about that,” she says. “We tried a few. None of them have worked.”
Finally, she settled on In the Land of Blood and Honey, and obvious take-off on the phrase “land of milk and honey,” indicating a place of great wealth – but in this case, terrible loss as well. More than 100,000 people lost their lives in the 1992 conflict. (UPDATE: Reader Kelley F. provides a tip with more insight: the former Yugoslavia is, of course, part of the Balkan peninsula, and “Bal” and “kan” in Turkish translates “blood” and “honey.” The sweetness/sadness motif contrast still stands.)
Sensitivities were high in the region when she was filming, with some survivors of the war fearing it was a twisted story of romance between a soldier and the woman he was oppressing, but Jolie quickly disproved those false reports by providing the script to officials in Bosnia’s culture ministry.
“The film is about the experience that a lot of different people, on all different sides, have as war takes its toll,” Jolie told me last October on the set in Budapest. “A couple that maybe would have lived a certain life, had the war not begun, end up having a very different story because of the war.”
Follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican