The White Fortress (Tabija): The Duality of Reality

Written and directed by Igor Drljaca, The White Fortress (Tabija) follows Faruk, a young orphan as he navigates survival through odd jobs and a life of crime and Mona, a more well-to-do teen who is fighting against the wishes of her parents. The film takes place in post-war Sarajevo and sets this coming-of-age romance story against the backdrop of its rippling effect on the society and its people.

One of the things that struck me about this film was the dualities that it constantly presented through the different perspectives of Faruk and Mona. Faruk is an orphan who lives with his ailing grandmother, works with his uncle picking up scraps and spends the rest of his time working for a crime boss so that he has enough to live on. At the same time, Mona is the daughter of well to do bureaucrats who are not as clean as they might seem and are able to send her abroad. Faruk believes that love is a luxury but, for Mona, it is something she can search for the rest of her life. To her, love will finally bring a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is something we see Faruk will also greatly benefit from, but too costly for him to intentionally pursue.

Interestingly, this sense of belonging is something that these kids, neither of whome fit in their different backgrounds, find with each other. Together, they are able to be themselves completely, blissfully ignorant of the realities of each other?s lives outside the moment. In the end, the question we ask ourselves is if our romantic ideas of true love ever truly win out against reality.

I asked Igor Drljaca about another moment in the film that reveals the differences in our two characters;
where Mona says her and Faruk are like the beginning of a fairy tale and he responds, ?more like a
horror movie?. I asked why Drljaca thought it was important to include those two kinds of narratives:
fairy-tale vs. horror/romance vs thriller into one story,but he disagreed with my presumption that the
two are distinct saying, ?fairy tales are horror stories.? The storytelling choice in The White Fortress is
not trying to juxtapose two distinct genres side by side but is exposing a reality of life: that the ideal and
awful often coexist and even feed into each other.

But above that sits the White Fortress. As a kid, I would ascribe narratives to objects and things to entertain myself (my sisters and I once created a whole cheating scandal for two chickens we saw outside; and gave a statue that sat in my grandparents? house a backstory that we expanded on every time we visited). By the end of the film, Mona has set her own ?fairy tale? in this White Fortress, housing the reality of her and Faruk?s relationship in something that still inspired hope.

That?s what Drljaca wants audiences to get from this – hope. The White Fortress posits to us that daring to hope and love, in the middle of the grittiness, is worth it.

The White Fortress (Tabija) is available in select theatres as listed beginning Wednesday, March 16th, 2022:

  • March 16th TIFF Bell Lightbox (one night in person)
  • March 25th digital TIFF bell lightbox 
  • March 25th – Vancouver Cinematheque
  • March 25th Winnipeg Cinematheque (digital)
  • Playing select Landmark Cinemas on March 28

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