Faruk is stuck. The teenager’s family lives among Sarajevo’s poorest, and he strikes out with older family members’ semi-legal dealings in an attempt to inject some excitement, if not escape, into his life. One such moneymaking endeavour brings him into the path of Mona, a teenager from an affluent, English-teaching school on the city’s outskirts. She has a path abroad mapped out, but one summer remains for exploration.

Tabija (The White Fortress) sits somewhere between fairy tale and crime thriller. The former’s atmosphere, when the action slows down to capture a sunrise on an almost-isolated hilltop, is where the film soars. The teenagers’ common ground is found in their dreams and imagination, even when their social experiences are so vastly different. The unignorable evidence of their swiftly diverging paths, however, leads to the film’s weaker parts, which prioritise the shocking and gritty over a more astute class observation or coming-of-age arc. The film lays the groundwork for a shown, lived approach to Faruk’s rocks and hard places but swerves opportunities to get into his psyche.

That said, the sincerity of its blossoming, fleeting romance makes up for underdevelopment elsewhere. Pavle Čemerikić and Sumeja Dardagan are naturally charming and have an easy chemistry through both characters’ different styles of confidence – Faruk’s grown of necessity, Mona’s given through birth. Their love is predictable, but it takes on shades of destiny against Sarajevo’s many identities. With a continual piano score under their momentary escapes, it is almost possible to believe in a mythical golden valley just over the next hill.

Tabija’s weakest moments play into the teen romance and criminal underworld scripts, but the commitment to its young protagonists’ biggest dreams fills its adventures with heart. While not housing the most memorable narrative, the film is a compelling snapshot of a fractured city.



CAST: Pavle Čemerikić, Sumeja Dardagan, Jasmin Geljo, Kerim Čutuna, Alban Ukaj, Farah Hadžić, Hasija Borić, Irena Mulamuhić, Jelena Kordić Kuret, Bilal Halilović

DIRECTOR: Igor Drljača

WRITER: Igor Drljača

SYNOPSIS: Teenagers Faruk and Mona bond in a fractured Sarajevo.