War Doc The Second Meeting Is Better at the Past Than the Present


It’s a solid idea for a film, anyway: In 1999, an American stealth bomber was shot down over Serbia by Yugoslav missile officer Zoltan Dani. Its pilot, Dale Zelko, parachuted safely away and was soon evacuated by the U.S. military. Twelve years later, the men decide to meet during peacetime. Moments in The Second Meeting command attention—largely interviews about the combat—but where the present is concerned, the film is more greeting card than documentary, meandering into a cheery haze. Zelko’s self-shot domestic scenes are especially directionless: He sings constantly, he introduces his kids, he shoots his drive to work or even his feet walking. The Serbian footage, presumably shot by director Zeljko Mirkovic, is better chosen. Dani, now a baker, concentrates on his work rather than performing for the camera. The meeting itself is genial but sparkless, with an air of artifice. We never see a translator, but we see Dani speak Serbian and Zelko answer him in English, with no hint of how he understood him. Similarly, we never learn how the two men found each other, or how their meeting came to pass. The ending has all the chummy awkwardness of a home movie: scene after scene of everyone standing still, smiling for a photograph as the camera rolls. It never occurs to anyone that it’s OK to move.