- - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Angelina Jolie seems anxious. She’s picking up bits of lint from the table in front of her, flattening out tiny creases in the tablecloth. Dressed in a flowing white blouse that contrasts with her sharp physical geometry, she speaks quickly, as if she has more ideas than she can fit into any single sentence. “I don’t want to get political,” she told The Washington Times this week, “but it’s impossible in Washington.”

It’s not only Washington that’s making it difficult to avoid politics. It’s the project she came to the city to promote, “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” A stark, ferocious movie about atrocity and violent ethnic conflict set in the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, the film has received mixed reviews but a number of compliments for Miss Jolie’s unsparing direction in her debut outing behind the camera.

“Blood and Honey,” opening Friday in the District, is part love story, part war movie, part somber monument to the war crimes - including mass rape and genocidal massacres - that occurred throughout the war. And according to Miss Jolie, it’s also a brief for humanitarian intervention.

Miss Jolie, who also wrote the screenplay (based on a story she sketched out in her journal while visiting Bosnia), says she doesn’t think of the film as having a partisan tilt in the ethnic strife endemic to the region. “It is very nuanced, intentionally nuanced,” she said. “It’s not black and white. I’m not choosing sides. The message is that there are these horrible things in our history, and we can’t forget them.”

But Miss Jolie doesn’t think it’s enough merely to remember what happened. The Oscar-winning actress, a longtime humanitarian advocate who meets frequently with political leaders and global refugees as part of her role as a U.N. special envoy, says the movie is also intended as a jolt to help viewers realize “what a horrible thing we did, internationally, to not help these people in a timely fashion. And the fact that we still aren’t, I don’t think, doing enough.”

What particularly upsets her about the conflict in Bosnia - and part of what drew her to the story - is that it’s so modern, and yet, she thinks, already overlooked. “The fact that this happened in the ‘90s,” she said, “just a few years after the Olympics were there,” in Sarajevo, a city that underwent the longest siege since World War II, is something that more people need to understand.

Miss Jolie is connected enough to world affairs that she casually mentions having communicated with the U.N. that morning, and easily brings up technical differences in various international court powers. But she doesn’t think others are paying enough attention. “The world still needs to be aware” of many conflicts going on today, she said. “We don’t want to have to do another film in 15 years about another situation.”

But if something must be done, the question is: What? And that’s where Miss Jolie has less to say.

Miss Jolie has visited Turkey to meet with Syrian refugees and dissenters who fled government persecution and says we “need to be doing more” to help the region. But when asked how she might feel about a U.N. resolution to topple the country’s government, she ducked.

“I certainly don’t know the answer,” Miss Jolie said. “But I spend time in that part of the world a lot. And I try to get to know people from that part of the world and listen to them.”

Those conversations have given rise to acceptance of the complexities and potential problems of intervention, which she worries can be just as dangerous as the situations they are designed to stop. “We have to make sure that whatever comes next isn’t worse,” she says. “It’s not just about removing somebody.”

And what about her role? She will continue to work with the U.N. and meet with world leaders, as well as remain active in the Council on Foreign Relations, which she joined in 2007.

A big part of her contribution, though, is making the movie; she and husband Brad Pitt reportedly had to finance much of the film’s $13 million budget themselves. She also has been on an aggressive promotion tour that’s as much about getting the message out as it is about selling the movie. “If art in any way can be of assistance, it should be,” she explains.

The movie, is “for Bosnia,” she says. “It’s for dialogue. To remind people that there are still fresh wounds, and they deserve our support.”

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