Cinema sometimes answers the horrors of modern war and its equally devastating aftermath in the countryside with fierce fantasy. US audiences will think readily of Guillermo del Toro's 2006 "Pan's Labyrinth," for example. There, a lonely young girl took refuge in a protective parallel world based in myth and fairy tale as Franco's Fascist regime held sway in the person of the sadistic Captain Vidal, whose mission was to root out resistance fighters among the mountain peasants. But even del Toro's 1944 Spain is an orderly world when set next to the post-World War I Serbian mountains of director Uro Stojanovi 's debut feature, "Tears for Sale/ arlston za Ognjenku"(2008).
"Tears for Sale" was added late to this year's Syracuse International Film Festival (April 24 -- May 3), so its title is missing from the printed program. Fortunately, there was room for this film mid-evening on the first Sunday at the Palace Theater, where it's the finale to the day's program in that venue of experimental and fantasy shorts alternating with sober documentaries. Thus one arrives in the topsy-turvy world of Pokrp, the fictional mountain village in a nation that lost two-thirds of its male population in the trenches of the Great War. In Pokrp's landscape, there seems to be no order save that of legend, curse, luck and their attendant obligations, even as distant Belgrade beckons throughout the story with its glittering new sky scraper and its "new age" requiring a "new dance."
The film opens in an ancient cemetery that's largely underwater. On the shore, Ognjenka (Katarina Radivojevi ) and her sister Little Boginja (Sonja Kola ari ) bicker over whether taking a swim in such waters is cursed (the cemetery is flooded with the tears of their grandmother, a mourner by family profession). A voice-over meticulously, sometimes lyrically narrates how the family business has flourished. Only two men returned from the war in 1918 and the survivor of these two -- more cemetery doings -- blew himself sky-high after lacing the vineyard with land mines. Now, village women draw straws during harvest to enter the vineyard and, near the story's end, one of the sisters will enter by choice to dance a last time -- a tango -- with her lover, after he ventures in by mistake.