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(E) Freedom From Despair Wins an Award in Hollywood
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  11/11/2004 | Awards | Unrated
(E) Freedom From Despair Wins an Award in Hollywood





On November 3, 2004, "Freedom From Despair" the feature length documentary by Brenda Brkusic played in the International Student Film Festival Hollywood at the El Portal Theatre to a wide-eyed audience of various ages and ethnicities.

"People laughed at exactly the right moments" Brenda commented, "sometimes I wonder if people will recognize the subtle sarcasm and irony in certain parts of the film, and they did! They also cried at the right moments. One woman of Mexican American decent told Brenda that she was very moved by the film: "it doesn't matter what ethnic group you come from, your heart does not grow immune to feeling the sadness and hurt that comes from seeing other people suffer." Brenda was especially touched when understanding that there were four Croatians present in the audience whom she had never met. "I thought it was very kind of them to come out and support the film. It really gave me a sense of how important and far reaching this film has become to everyone in our community."

The film, which tackles the untold history of Communist Yugoslavia and the Balkan War of the 1990's, stars famous actors Michael York (Austin Powers), John Savage (The Deerhunter), Beata Pozniak (JFK), and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. The film's score is composed by renowned musician Nenad Bach. Brenda went to Croatia last year to shoot the film, coming back with a mixture of interviews, stock footage and narrative recreations, then editing all of that together to form a captivating and personal historical drama. Kevin McKenna, juror for the film festival and Director of IDEAS - Investigative Documentaries Educating American Society, said "I absolutely loved the film. The quality was leaps and bounds above any other film we've ever received for the International Student Film Festival Hollywood."

As a result, Freedom From Despair won the award for Best Documentary at the International Student Film Festival Hollywood. Actor John Savage, the film's narrator, was at the festival's closing ceremony in support of the film and both he and Brenda were overjoyed when Freedom From Despair won the award for Best Documentary. "It was an honor to have some of my cast and crew present and to share this experience with them," said Brenda. "John Savage has been an enormous champion of the film, openly advocating attention for it, and he has become one of my best friends. I couldn't keep up with all the work it takes to promote the film if it wasn't for the support of friends and family."

Since the film's release six months ago, Brenda has received positive feedback from people around the world, including rave reviews from international media. In addition to winning the award for Best Documentary at the ISFFH, the film was premiered in the Amnesty International Film Festival in Hollywood, received a "Special Recognition" at the Dubrovnik International Film Festival, won "Best Documentary" at the Chapman University Filmmaker Awards, and is currently a "Finalist" in the Anti-Defamation League Dore Schary Awards.

A non-profit group, the Croatian National Foundation, is sponsoring Brenda in her current efforts to produce fund raiser screenings for the film.
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