Unconscionable Dismissal

Critics published outrageous criticisms of the film, Dara of Jasenovac, directed by Predrag ‘Gaga’ Antonijević, which portrays the experience of Serb, Jewish, Roma prisoners in the Jasenovac concentration camp complex during World War II.. Several characterized the motivation behind the making of the film as simply Serbian “nationalistic propaganda” and chiding Serbs for claiming victimhood spanning centuries. Jay Weissberg, ‘Dara of Jasenovac’ Review: A Holocaust Movie With Questionable Intentions

LA Times Review by Robert Abele Review: Holocaust drama ‘Dara of Jasenovac’ regrettably aims for settling scores

The first film to break the silence regarding Serbian victimization in the Holocaust after waiting 80 years is a candidate for an Academy Award. Never before has our story been exposed to the world in a manner befitting its gravity.

The Invaluable Backing of Michael Berenbaum

The truth about the making of the film is that inspiration was largely provided by a collaboration of Director Antonijević and Michael Berenbaum, who is a leading Holocaust historian. He believes that our story is innately a part of the holocaust. Ninety percent of the people exterminated in Fascist Croatia were ethnic Serbs. Our bones lie inextricably tangled with Jewish and Roma bones in many mass graves and pits, and to marginalize and dismiss that fact has been grievously hurtful to our people for many decades. That omission has also been a political football many have used to advance agendas that, among other things, led to the destruction of the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia, pursuing the ambition of superpowers eager to install a western military base in a pivotally strategic location connecting Europe to the Middle East.

Michael Berenbaum is likely the world’s leading expert on the Holocaust. To have his support is HUGE. It is him narrating the “Featurette” trailer above, third trailer on the left.

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The Jasenovac Research Institute will do what it can to promote the distribution of Dara of Jasenovac. it was directed by Predrag ‘Gaga’ Antonijević, which portrays the experience of Serb, Jewish, Roma prisoners in the Jasenovac concentration camp complex during World War II.

Jasenovac was the largest concentration camp in the Nazi-allied so-called Independent State of Croatia, under the fascist Ustaše regime. The regime’s fanatical clerical-fascist ideology was focused intently on the systematic extermination of all non-Croat peoples and of Croatian political dissidents. In many cases, young Serbian children were adopted into Croatian homes, and their ethnicity was erased. Jasenovac is noted for its extreme brutalization of prisoners.

Yet, Jasenovac remains little known outside of the Balkans. Dara of Jasenovac follows the 2019 release of the Croatian film, ‘The Diary of Diana B’ (Title in Croatia: Dnevnik Diane Budisavljević), which covers the same subject. It is our hope that these two films will lead to a broader global awareness of the tragic events that took place at Jasenovac.

Dara of Jasenovac was fortunate in having prominent Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum serve as the film’s executive producer. In discussion with JRI board members, Mr. Berenbaum informed us that every incident in the movie was based on documented historical events. As brutal as some scenes are, the filmmaker chose to tone down some of them. The victims in the musical chairs episode, for example, are portrayed by adults in the movie, whereas the historical case involved children.

The film’s message is an important one in this time of growing intolerance and ethnocentrism. “I hope people come out understanding a little bit about Jasenovac, and also understanding the ultimate victim,” Berenbaum has been quoted as saying. “When you see Dara, hopefully you’ll come away horrified by the magnitude of evil, and committed to a little bit more human decency and dignity.”

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2 Comments

  1. This is a very powerful film that finally tells the truth about what was happening to my Krajina family in 1941, near Karlovac. Great Aunt Sara took six of the kids with her into hiding, which most Serbs were then doing (those who survived). Great Uncle Rade stayed home with the other six. Ustasha came, shot him down in his own field then burned everything he’d spent a lifetime building. He was a farmer, a miller and a blacksmith. He could afford to send all his children to the Serbian school. The Ustasha took his children to Jasenovac. The 17-year-old boy, Vasilje, died two days later. The older girl, Anka, about twenty, died a few months later in a women’s camp, likely starved to death. The three littlest girls were sent to Stari Gradishka where they were rescued by Diana Budisavljevic and survived. But when they went home to Sara four years later, they went back as little Croatian girls she barely recognized.
    There’s never been a drama on a par with the other great holocaust films, with the production values, the acting, the sound track, all those wonderful elements of film that can give a story like ours dignity, and make people feel for us. We’re not just statistics, but human beings who suffered the unimaginable.
    And to hear that it was shot down by dishonest film reviewers in whose pay? That’s a sin. Are we ever going to matter?

  2. NEWS
    Serbian Director Threatens US Lawsuit over WWII Film Review
    Predrag ‘Gaga’ Antonijevic, director and producer of ‘Dara of Jasenovac’, Serbia’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 2021 Oscars, which deals with crimes committed at the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia, said on Sunday that he intends to sue the Los Angeles Times for denying war crimes committed against Serbs at the WWII camp.

    “This is no longer a question of film and criticism, but it represents a complete denial of the genocide committed against Serbs during the Independent State of Croatia and a serious insult to all the victims,” Antonijevic told the Nova.rs website.

    In the Los Angeles Times review on February 4, Robert Abele claimed that the “veneer of historical reality is thin” in Antonijevic’s film.

    Abele wrote that although the fascist Ustasa movement that ran the WWII-era Independent State of Croatia was “a nightmarish puppet regime of the Axis powers” and the Jasenovac concentration camp was “one more hell on Earth for Jews”, Antonijevic appears to be using his film to score political points amid a “longstanding regional feud” between Serbs and Croats.

    “What director Antonijevic’s epic of barbarism and sentimentality wants to drive home is that the annihilation of ethnic Serbs was the real focus [of the Jasenovac camp], and that children got their own camp,” he said.

    The Los Angeles Times review came two weeks after an article in US entertainment business magazine Variety described ‘Dara of Jasenovac’ as “Serbian nationalist propaganda” and said that it displays “unconcealed anti-Croatian, anti-Catholic nativism”.

    “Variety at least wrote that everything is true, but that the film is supposedly propaganda, although I don’t know how the truth can be propaganda. In the LA Times, it’s written that the movie is not exactly historical and that I pushed Serbs and children into the story about Jasenovac,” Antonijevic said.

    US distribution of ‘Dara of Jasenovac’ started on Friday, while the Serbian premiere is scheduled for April 21, the day before the anniversary of the last attempted break-out by inmates at the concentration camp before the Ustasa shut it down and the Independent State of Croatia fell.

    ‘Dara of Jasenovac’ was partly backed by the Film Center Serbia, a state institution, and the Serbian government.

    It also ran into controversy this month when the IMDb film website disabled its rating option for the film after organised voting by Serbs and Croats to raise or reduce its approval rating.

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