Video Rentals Distract In War-Torn Sarajevo

IN a video rental store that took a shrapnel hit from Serb gunners, Suada Zgodic sells taped escape to fellow residents. ``Mainly comedies,'' he says, ``because they want to forget about reality.''

But action movies, especially fantasies of fighting back against massive force, are also wartime favorites here. ``People rent the type where one guy goes out and takes out all the others,'' says Maja Gafic, who works at Video Club Sarajevo. ``Why would you watch a love film now?''

``Kindergarten Cop,'' in which Arnold Schwarzenegger sheds his tough guy role, has been the most popular choice at the Feniks Videotheque during the 1-1/2 year siege, Mr. Zgodic says.

Cartoons haven't been doing so well because most children have been ferried out of Sarajevo to safety.

The two video outlets are among the few that have stayed open throughout the war. For about 30 cents a tape, people get distraction or maybe a boost in their struggle to survive - when there's electricity.

Though the demand for videotapes rises and falls with the power supply, the choice on the shelves has shrunk as tapes fall victim to war. Of Video Club's 3,500 copies, only 150 remain in stock. The reason? Most soldiers went on video binges before frontline duty and have not returned, one worker explained.

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