• Golden Globe Awards

Dara of Jasenovac (Serbia)

There are so many stories from World War II, most of them told from the victims’ side and many of them based on true testimonies. But rarely do we see one from a child’s perspective and even more so, one that does not take place in one of the concentration camps with names that we are all too familiar with.
Hardly anyone has ever heard about Jasenovac, despite the fact that it was one of the largest extermination camps, built near the village with the same name, between the Sava and Una rivers in Slavonia, about 100 kilometers southeast of Zagreb. It was operated by the governing Ustaše regime, the Croatian Revolutionary Movement as they called themselves. But really, they were an ultranationalist, fascist and terrorist group that did the Croatian government’s dirty work after the Croats made a pact with Hitler, brutally killing and torturing more Jews, Roma, and Serbs than in most other concentration camps.
The film, directed by Predrag Antonijević, tells the story of a family being torn apart by death and separation until only 10-year-old Dara and her two-year-old baby brother Budo are left. Dara makes it her personal mission to protect and save her little brother. The director does not shy away from showing the atrocities that were committed and goes as far as having a visiting Nazi officer from Germany comment to the commander running the camp, that the Germans really only asked the Ustaše commander to “cleanse” the local population of Jews and Roma, not Serbs. To which the commander replies that Serbs (and Slavs in general) fall under the Nazis’ definition of ‘Untermenschen’ (low humans). As the director states: “It is the first feature film to expose the horrors of Jasenovac and shed light on the senseless crimes that were committed at the expense of hundreds of thousands of victims, many of whom were children. And while the film reveals these tragedies, it ultimately tells a story of survival and resilience and the power of courage and perseverance.”
The title role, Dara, is played by Biljana Cekić, who has never acted in a film before. Most other actors are either fairly or well-known in their local film industry in Serbia.