Sabina K: Beauty for Ashes (Movie Review)

Lisa HollowayBy Lisa Holloway6 Minutes

“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair…” (Isaiah 61:3).

I won’t pretend Sabina K is an upbeat movie. To give beauty for ashes, there must first be ashes. And it is the hard-won ashes of Sabina’s life that will prepare her for her purpose.

But writer-director Cristóbal Krusen has given us a redemption story worth watching. He shows vividly how God can transform impossible situations into something unexpectedly beautiful.

Have you ever felt like life kept hitting you with one bad thing after another? Then you’ll have sympathy for Sabina’s true story and the war-torn society she lives in.

Sabina K’s World

Before the Bosnian War of 1992-1995, the term “ethnic cleansing” didn’t exist.

Yet by the end of the war, well over 100,000 people in this tiny new country were dead. Among these, 8,000 were Bosnian Muslims massacred inside a UN safe haven. Many war crimes and acts of vengeance followed. I remember a professor who’d served as a diplomat during that time describing one faction leader as the most evil man he’d ever met.

On top of that, two million more people ended up homeless as factions attempted to carve up former Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina would never be the same.

Before the war, marriage between ethnic groups was fairly common. But it’s after the war that Sabina Kadic’s story begins.

We Love Each Other. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The Sabina K movie opens at a high point. Muslim Sabina (Alena Dzebo, Full Moon) and Catholic Saša (Alban Ukaj, Bota) are in love. They’re celebrating their engagement with wartime comrades at Sabina’s apartment. It’s a diverse group, but everyone looks more or less the samedresses the same. The ethnic and religious differences aren’t obvious.

We soon discover not everyone is happy about the newly engaged couple. Saša’s mother calls him at 2:30 a.m., wondering when he’ll be home (he won’t) and refusing to ever meet his fiancée. Meanwhile, we’re told Sabina’s mother had followed them down the road, dramatically shouting, “The cross will always betray you!”

Faced with hostility from both families, Sabina and Saša decide to marry on the island of Korcula at a friend’s place. But when the time comes, Sabina shows up and Saša doesn’t. When she returns home, all of Saša’s things are gone from the apartment. There is no note. No answer to her phone calls.

When a desperate Sabina visits his mother to find out where he is, his mother threatens to call the police. The love of her life has simply disappeared, with no explanation.

From Bad to Worse

Sabina soon faints at work and finds out she’s pregnant. Her family feels shamed and cuts her off when she refuses to abort the baby.

This is only the beginning of Sabina losing everything she has, piece by piece, until even hope is gone. Watching, it’s easy to understand why she feels lost. Part of her harvest results from seeds she’s sown in her own life, and she prepares to reap that harvest alone. But it’s easy to forget something …

Other people also sow seeds into her life. Seeds of judgment. Indifference. Greed. Cruelty. Self-righteousness. And they have an impact.

C.S. Lewis reminded us of this in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory”: All day long we are, in some way, helping each other to become either more like God or more of a corruption of His divine image.

Our attitudes and actions make a difference.

Sabina K: Beauty for Ashes

Luckily, the world isn’t the author of Sabina’s storyGod is.

A friend assures Sabina that “love always finds a way,” and it will. But they’re picturing a “way” in which Sabina and Saša stand together against the tides of the world’s opinion. They’re picturing a human victory. It’s the failure of that victory that leaves Sabina in despair, ready to take her own life.

God writes a better story. It is one that will take her deep into His heart for her and the mission He has in mind. It’s a journey in which there’s still so much more for Sabina to live and to do—one that leads her home to Him.

Enjoy this powerful true story with teens for some great discussions about God, grace, and the world.