Cannes Film Festival: Angelina Jolie struggled over title of Bosnian War movie -- EXCLUSIVE


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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

Comments (74 total) Add your comment
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  • Jack

    The title is awful! Maybe it sums up the film well, but who the heck is going to pay to see a movie with that title during the holiday season??

    • oscar voters

      • SaHe

        Oscar voter dont pay they get films sent to them by distributor.

    • TorontoTom

      The same people who went to see The Hurt Locker (and voted it Best Picture).

      • Jack

        The Hurt Locker is the lowest grossing best picture winner of the past 20 years. This film will flop.

      • m.

        “The Hurt Locker” was a great film and it deserved the award. I wan’t maybe the easiest to understand or watch, but still a great movie.

      • @m.

        With respect, I am curious, what part of The Hurt Locker was hard to understand? I saw the laed character literaly loved the thrill of difusing bombs more than his wife or baby. He said as much holding his child and trying to rock him to sleep. The next scene he leaves his family and is in full gear with a smile on his face back in Iraq for another tour. “War is a drug”. Gave me chills.

      • harry

        Thank you @m.

    • Focus

      You asked: “who the heck is going to pay to see a movie with that title during the holiday season??”
      Muslims and Orthodox Christians will see it, since Muslims don’t view it as a religious holiday, nor the Orthodox Christians since they use the Julian calendar, which isn’t Christmas until the end of the first week of January.
      Maybe others as well will see it, if we were to judge Americans by the Neilson ratings of watching violent Balkans events during December holidays… ie. Romania’s 1989 execution of their installed dictator, Yugoslavia’s civil wars in 1990s and post-war violent protests in Belgrade etc, etc.

      • KO

        Orthodox Christians won’t see it since it puts Serbian Christians in a bad light. The media still perpetuates the rape myth even though it was proven that it was Muslims doing the raping. There is so much anti-Serbian, anti-Christian sentiment out there, the truth gets covered up.

      • Lala

        @KO, don’t talk crap.

      • Deena

        Srsly, don’t talk crap! You don’t think about raping when you fight for your life, when you’re the attacked one!

      • AS

        @KO: What world are you living in? The Sebs raped women and massacred the men, not a damn myth but a proven fact.

    • Russell

      balkan means blood and honey

      • shut the f*up

        AS, GET YOUR EDUCATION STRAIGHTEN out on this this topic and stop acting as smartASS! You are embaressing yourself by posting such stupid comments without any previous knwledge about it. Grow up!

    • amber

      intelligent people.

  • Marie

    I think that her title choice is perfect, actually. I’m interested in seeing if she’ll be a good director. It’s impressive that she used the local language and local actors. Kudos, Angelina.

    • Liz Lemon

      I agree. I’m really interested in seeing this film. I want to see her directing style and I’m also really intrigued by the story. There’s been so much controversy surrounding it.
      I think “Blood and Honey” would be a better title though. The “In the Land of…” is too much.

  • Jack

    Oscar voters don’t pay to see movies.

  • O

    I admit I’m interested in this movie but my taste is opposite of many when it comes to celebs. Lol she as a lot of haters!

  • Cat

    Seems like it’s getting the Oscar treatment. I hope it’s good.

    • Deena

      No Man’s Land, won Oscar for best
      FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM and guess what? It was in BOSNIAN!

      • Mark

        And that’s relevant to this discussion how exactly?

  • Focus

    I wonder if they gave her trouble because she and I have a mole above the same eyebrow? No, Angelina is not my “seester” [nor have I “banged” her].

    How do I get free movies to place Oscar votes?

    As for the article, there is only one language, Serbian, from an academics’ view point, but many dialects and extra diction (or lack of). The rest is political culture, because in a democracy you can vote for creating anything- even 50 versions of U.S. English.

    • Focus

      Post Script:
      If you are a casting director then let it be known I no longer have a mole above my eyebrow. I had it removed with a razor years ago.

      • Voodoo

        Focus, please stop your propaganda. This is an entertainment site, go and take your political agenda elsewhere. Perhaps the CNN website would be a good place to spread your bullsh!t.

      • Focus

        Were you the loosing bidder today for Angelina’s movie?

      • Voodoo

        It’s Voodoo, you blind moron. And I don’t give a sh!t about Jolie’s movie, it’s just that your lies are taking up half the page. Why don’t you start your own blog, then you can talk all you want about anything you want.

      • Focus

        If CNN wants me then they can pay me. They financially benefited the most from the Yugoslav wars, and almost the Clinton administration until their “pre-reconstruction” commerce plan hit the side of a mountain.
        I know what western propaganda has done to millions of up rooted Yugoslavs. They’re living amongst the westerns today.

    • Maggie

      As for the article, there is only one language, Croatian, from an academics’ view point, but many dialects and extra diction (or lack of). The rest is political culture, because in a democracy you can vote for creating anything- even 50 versions of U.S. English.

      • Focus

        Elder Croats admit they were originally ethnic Serbs. Beleave me Serbian is the language, not Croatian, Bosnian or Montenegrin. They all understand each other.

      • @Focus

        The language is called Serbo-Croatian. And you’re confusing Croats with Bosnians. Bosnian Muslims are originally etnic Serbs (or Croats).

      • Focus

        No such thing as Serbo-Croat language, it‘s political.
        Croatian led communist state criminals were revisionists, as were their predecessor [Croatia’s] Pavelic fascists that further flamed hatred and wrongful historical claims that preceded them. I’m not going to give evidence proving my claims;
        Nor, am I going to give evidence that the New Testament was written in Cyrillic and not the Latin alphabet;
        Nor, am I going to give evidence that the Orthodox Church is the original Christian religion and that Serbs that sided with the Roman Catholic Church (in the 1054AD era) were called Croats and those that remained original Christians continued to be called Serbs;
        Nor, am I going to give evidence that those Serbs that converted to Islam, for whatever reason, were called Muslims by the communist criminal state laws (a criminal state imposed by Hitler under Croat fascism and later switched to Croat communism by Great Britain in WWII era, which was further covered up by Margaret (Maggie) Thatcher in the 1980s) and only accepted as a new ethnicity, Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim), during the 1990s’ civil war, because they have a trace amount of mixed Turkish genes for whatever reason from centuries past.
        They all speak and understand the Serbian language. If they all close their eyes and only use their mouth & ears then they will all understand each other because it is the Serbian language they speak.

      • Ed

        You are an idiot or a nationalist, or probably both. BHS is a nationally neuteral name for the language. If you want to claim they are different languages then you have Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. The people understand each other as well as a person speaking English from Alabama, California, and Massachusetts do. If you are saying that they are all one language then the language is BHS (formerly called Serbo-Croatian).

      • Focus

        Thanks Ed,
        I am a citizen of Bosnia. There is two alphabets: Cyrillic and Latin, as was before. When appling for Bosnia’s new National Identity transponder card (so westerners can keep track of Bosnian nationals anywhere in this world with a simple piece of mobile transponder reader equipment) I was asked if I was Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim (not my ethnicity). That is the reality of European (formerly U.S.) occupied Bosnia. And the language that appears on the National Identiy card is Latin Bosniac, Serbian Cyrillic, Latin Croatian, French and English.
        THAT’S RIGHT!
        That’s five lines explaining that this transponder identification card is a National Identity card.

      • Tihana

        The language is called Serbo-Croatian for all those that dont know. They can all call it different but t hats whats its called .

    • Deena

      No Man’s Land, won Oscar for best
      FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM and guess what? It was in BOSNIAN!

  • Nati

    I am from the balkan and i am verry happy that all of the world will see what happend there bravooo for angelina, you americans should be proud of her, you learned so much form her about the world!

  • Stellen

    O, yeah Angelina has so many haters that her last 2 movies had worldwide grosses of…Salt 293 million and The Tourist 278 million. A few knuckleheads on the INTERNET do not count for the WHOLE world. I for one can’t wait to see this film.

  • Kelley F.

    I think the title Jolie’s chosen is great and makes a lot of sense. It’s not just a take on the phrase “land of milk and honey. Bosnia is part of the Balkan Peninsula and if you think about the history of the area (formerly part of the Turkish empire for centuries) and look at the etymology of the word “Balkan” (in Turkish it literally means “honey (bal)and blood (kan)) then the title of Jolie’s film makes perfect sense.

    • Focus

      Good observation.
      But the [Muslin] Turks were very primitive. They must have labelled it to something.
      The only thing that is Honey-Blood in the Serbian homeland is one of the popular plums. In Bosnia, we have two types of domestic plums:
      1.) Blue plums, when polished, or, purple plums, when the haze is left on it.
      2.) The other is polished yellow plums, or, hazy yellow plums if left untouched. Most times these yellow plums have bruise like red marks, or even blood-drop like marks on it, mostly around the stem. Red as fresh un-oxygenated blood. When polished on a shirt it is a yellow color that a person would want to paint their Lamborghini.
      Both plums are fermented and distilled by Serbs to this day, called Slivovic, pronounced: Shlee-voh-veets. But for Muslim Turks it was forbidden, even now. It’s used for everything from anti-bacterial shots, medicine, disinfectant, cleaner, celebration, religious ceremonies, bartering, drowning sorrows.. Etc.
      Slivovic is a commercially protected brand name by Serbs, honestly. The best Slivovic is the one your bloodline has been distilling for centuries, not the mixed batch commercial ones, and there all mixed batch if bottled and labelled, but its close.

      • rum

        koji si se ti kurac našo raspravljat na ew

      • Focus

        Who’s your commanding officer? Your insulting attempt to instigate an argument will only lead me to advocate the writing in of you into a Fiore film.

      • Ed

        Go to mainstream stores in the US and the sljivovica you find is Maraska brand from Croatia. Must everything be about national superiority to you? Next you will be saying that Serbs invented honey and then shortly after that blood. Get off your nationalist bandwagon and talk about entertainment, otherwise go to a political forum.

      • Voodoo

        @Ed, it’s useless. I already tried telling Focus the same thing but it’s apparent he/she is an idiot.

      • Focus

        Europe has protected brand names. That plum brandy you mentioned is junk compared to the real stuff.
        What do you two expect from insults? Further excusses to increase useless civil servant welfare budgets in the name of career civil servant paychecks?
        I watched Gates being interviewed on 60 Minutes last night, he has his priorities straight when dealing with budgets. Was he insulting, or, does he have access to a big stick?

      • Voodoo

        @Focus, I tell you again, it’s VOODOO. I think it’s pretty obvious, you have revealed yourself to be a Bosnian Serb. While most of them are good people (not better or worse than the rest of the world), some of them, like you, for some reason still hold a grudge because you didn’t succeed in your political goal, i.e. the creation of a pan-Serbian state. Let it go already! BTW, your talk of “welfare budgets” and the like doesn’t make sense and only confirms my believe that you are a conspiracy theorist, seeing evil and betrayal where there is none. No use discussing this any further. Good night and good luck.

      • Focus

        I had no political goals as a teenager back then, nor now. Nor my friends as young as fourteen on the front lines. Why should we? Serbs already lived in one state, Yugoslavia. I watched Croatia’s World War 2 fascist symbols come back in the form of free and democratic elections, in 1990. Symbols that slaughtered Serbs because of Croatian state policy of the Nazi puppet state. When holocaust survivors saw these symbols come back in 1990 they protected themselves by taking back their ethnic land, accounting approx. 1/3 of then Croatia’s communist drawn internal borders, re-creating the military frontier against the Muslim Turks centuries ago. Roman Catholics did not want to be minorities in the new democratized Yugoslavia of summer 1990 so they wanted to break away with Croatian communist drawn internal borders as international borders; hence the Yugoslav civil wars for borders in [slovenia,] Croatia and Bosnia.
        I might as well add the freely [released] united Germany broke international laws regarding Yugoslavia and the UN’s Yugoslav arms embargo (as well as Austria and HUNGARY).
        If slovenes and Croats wanted to secede then they could go back to the legal borders prior to their bleeding of joining the Serbian Kingdom after world war 1. Those are the legal borders, which they refer to as greater Serbia. That is not pan Serb state movement, your referring to pan Slavism requested by Slovenes & Croats after the WW1. Real pan Slavism is one country from the Adriatic Sea to the Japanese Sea to the Bering Straight with Alaska.
        RE; your conspiracy comment: Civil servants financially benefit from investigating conspiracy theorists and give validity to their budgets. I talk from experience with video evidence; such as airplane video footage of Gulf of Mexico oil slick travelling up the eastern coast of Florida many yards away from the beach headed towards Britain.
        Regarding your insults,
        What do you expect from a Bosnia movie filmed in Hungary in this comments section, fictitious entertainment comments perhaps? It seems to me westerns, such as yourself, only like timid former Yugoslavs that had to claim being Serbs, after the break up of Yugoslavia, as good Serbs and those Orthodox Christians Serbs, since baptism, as bad Serbs for protecting themselves and living their own lives as free people rather than subjects to Europe’s (and Bill Clinton’s generation) imperialism.

      • Outraged

        Someone at EW, please remove Focus’s racist comments. This site really needs monitoring.

  • Brock

    Hat’s off to Ms. Jolie, she certainly didn’t choose an easy subject matter to make her directorial debut. Clearly, it is a story and subject matter she’s passionate about. We’ll have to wait and see the finished product, however, it is possible that the film could be nominated in the foreign language category at the Oscars.

    • Woot

      Doubt it. Unless the distribution company is from that country (and I don’t believe it is.) Also she just shot it in Europe…it wasn’t a foreign production and thus the country wouldn’t be able to submit it. Though I could be completely off haha


    @Angelina Jolie,


    I think it’s a beautiful title. Very clr.-dr. sounding.


    I’m not sure next year (2012) – since it’s reportedly scheduled for US release in Dec. 2011 – we’ll get to see it here in Asia. But it seems the US release date is intended for the Oscar buzz, etc.; so, good luck.


    PS: But I think Salt SVCKZ, though. What happened to the Girl, Interrupted’s Jolie, mademoiselle?

  • Manuel

    With all her clout and connections, she could have chosen a “safe” film to direct…maybe a domestic drama starring some of her famous peers, or a sexual thriller, or a horror film, or a bodice ripper, but she chose a film that will be hard to sell. Kudos to her for doing something she believe in as opposed to something will make tons of money.

  • I lied to you the minute i said i do

    isn’t this about some woman falling inlove with her rapist. that makes me sense bc rape is not love it is about power not attraction

    • Cat

      That was a rumour but Jolie denied it.

  • Butters

    Don’t like the title but hope the film offers something good.

  • Johnny Stulic

    Balkane Balkane Balkane moj
    budi mi silan
    i dobro mi stoj

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