February 28, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Grbavica, writer-director Jasmila Zbanic’s emotionally intimate debut, features a powerfully blunt performance by Mirjana Karanovic as Esma, a woman who survived warfare in Bosnia (with its wretched descent into rape and torture). The trauma seeps into every aspect of Esma’s life as a single mother in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica (once the site of a prison camp), from her relationship with her daughter to her reaction to men. The dramatic conflicts are soapy and unsubtle, but Karanovic pours intense authority into Esma’s scarred psyche. B

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