Set against the grim backdrop of two great wars, Sabina Vajraca’s Sevap/Mitzvah is a transcendent story of unlikely friendships that remarkably defy the ethnic, religious, national, and generational divides of the time. Rifka Kabilijo (Magdalena Zivalic Tadic) is a Jewish woman on the run in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia when she and her family are taken in by Zejneba Hardaga (Helena Vukovic), a young Muslim woman. The film then skips ahead to roughly 50 years later, with the raging Bosnian war threatening the life of Zejneba. The proverbial tables turn, and Rifka must assist her friend in need, with both acts of kindness being met with scrutiny and plenty of hostility.
The performances are outstanding, with both Tadic and Vukovic bringing a raw and emotional intensity to their roles that is truly captivating. The direction and cinematography are also excellent, capturing the stark beauty of the war-torn landscape and the emotional complexity of the story. Alen Alilovic deserves ample credit for his authentic work behind the camera, as he lends a unique visual flavor to the on-screen imagery. In that same vein, the production design (Adisa Vatres) is equally impressive. From the costume design to the locations, everything blends seamlessly.
Where the technical aspects reach such a high level, it’s down to the story to succeed in telling something wholly endearing, and that is what Vajraca’s screenplay accomplishes in a rather short period of time. The dark, painfully real details are underscored by a light in the darkness philosophy that never dwindles. Not only is it refreshing, but it’s also inspiring. Hope ultimately shines through in Sevap/Mitzvah, a short that truly speaks to the power of the human spirit and resilience in the face of adversity. It is a moving tribute to friendship and reconciliation. . . even in the most challenging of circumstances.