Without her name attached, she sent the script to people on all sides of the Bosnian conflict. The response was favorable, and before long, Jolie was casting actors, mostly people who lived through the war or had close relatives and friends in the thick of it.
Cast as Muslim artist Ajla, Zana Marjanovic was 8 years old when the war broke out. She and her mother fled to Slovenia while her father stayed behind in Sarajevo. Goran Kostic, who was 20 and living in London when the war started, was cast as Ajla's lover, Danijel, torn between love and duty as a leader at the camp where she is interned.
With graphic scenes of rape, sniper slayings, civilian massacres and soldiers using women as human shields, the film was a balancing act as Jolie sought to tells a story representing all sides.
Jolie's reputation as a humanitarian envoy reassured the locals that the film would be a fair and honest depiction, said Marjanovic, who recalled the stir created by Jolie's visit back to Sarajevo last summer for a film festival.
"We're just too cool to be concerned about various superstars walking around our city," Marjanovic said. "But when it was Angelina — that was just the one superstar we're not immune to. It wasn't only because of everything she's done as an actress — it was that and the fact that she's doing this film about Bosnia. I think everyone had really high hopes, and I believe they'll feel that it came from the right place, that she will portray us truthfully and do a great job."
At U.S. theaters, the film mostly will play in a Bosnian-language version with English subtitles. But Jolie and her actors shot a second version in English that's available for domestic and overseas markets where subtitled films might be a hard sell for audiences.
She prefers that viewers see the native-language version, but the English one is "there for whoever wants it, because we want to reach as many people as we can," Jolie said.
Jolie eventually wants her children to see "In the Land of Blood and Honey" — though for now, she's keeping them on a cinema diet that includes her "Kung Fu Panda" animated tales.
Of her own movies, "I think the most fun one for them will be 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith,' because who doesn't want to see their parents try to kill each other?" Jolie said. "'Wow, mom and dad are going crazy.'"
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