Freedom from Despair is a Brilliant Film, Says Tolucan Times
THE TOLUCAN TIMES
IDEAS by Kevin McKena
International Student Film Festival Hollywood – a Big Screen Blast
This year’s International Student Film Festival Hollywood was a true celebration of fine films. The festival received more than 200 submissions from over 20 countries, and screened both high school and college students’ films. All the film screenings took place at the historic El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.
I have been volunteering for and entering film festivals since film school at the San Francisco Art Institute. An actress I liked at the time was a volunteer at the San Francisco Film Festival and suggested I volunteer. I did and got the girl, and saw a lot of real good films for free. So film festivals have always been especially entertaining for me.
The International Student Film Festival Hollywood’s goal is to give student filmmakers from around the world a unique opportunity to showcase their work in the entertainment capital of the world.
Veteran film editor Robin Saban, whose years of work in entertainment inspired him to create an outlet for promising student filmmakers, started the festival in 2003. Robin reached out to more than 400 universities and high schools worldwide to generate awareness and excitement for the festival.
I also have accepted a seat on the festival’s board of directors. I believe it is extremely important that young and talented filmmakers get some recognition for their labor. Not to mention, film festivals are a lot of fun. Our board of directors believes that by combining our efforts to aid student filmmakers, both here and abroad, we bring the world of cinema closer together and also contribute in helping unite the earth through the art of film. I was impressed and moved by the high quality of work produced by these talented young filmmakers. Some of these films look like Hollywood directors with big budgets directed them.
The opening night party was a blast and more than 300 people showed up. The food, by Arli’s Catering, was awesome. The festival presented many awards for filmmaking, including the Young Director’s Award presented to Jennifer Lynch, an accomplished director and actress, her credits include “Boxing Helena,” which she wrote and also directed. Her next project slated for 2005 is a movie called “Surveillance” which she co-wrote and will also direct.
More than 2,000 people attended this year’s festival, many traveling thousands of miles to see these amazing student films from all over the world.
Also attending the festival was Academy Award-nominated actor John Savage. Savage performed the narrative for the brilliant film, “Freedom from Despair,” which won in the documentary category and was directed by up-and-coming young director Brenda Brkusic.
For the last few years Savage, who starred in classic films like “The Deer Hunter” and “The Onion Field” has dedicated his life to humanitarian efforts. In addition, Savage was recently nominated for ISFFH’s 2005 Humanitarian Award. Thank you, John, for your commitment to making the world a better place.
Full article: http://tolucantimes.com/columns120104/McKenna/index.html
VOICE OF CROATIA INTERNATIONAL RADIO SEGMENT WITH BRENDA BRKUSIC ON CROATIA TODAY
You can listen to the interview on www.ljepanasadomovinahrvatska.com at the following link:
Text from the interview below:
Josip Serdarevic: Many different stories have been written about Croatia, its history and the homeland war over the last 15 years. But one important point has been lost in all the contradictory reports and facts and figures; namely that the whole basis of Croatia’s modern independence movement was to get itself out from under communist tyranny. Brenda Brkusic is a young American filmmaker of Croatian decent who actually delved deep into the roots of the war in Croatia, unlike most foreign based directors who were lost in a myriad of ideological propaganda from all sides and left most things open ended and unanswered.
Brenda Brkusic: The film is about the Croatian people’s struggle to overcome oppression from Communist Yugoslavia – a regime that suppressed Croatian culture and religion and liquidated over 720 Catholic priests. It is based on the incredible story of a young man’s life threatening escape from his homeland of Croatia in 1957. The film portrays the Croatian people’s fight to save their war-ravaged homeland in the 1990’s and it exposes the truth about Croatia’s history that was never shown in the American mainstream media.
Josip Serdarevic: Brenda Bkusic is from Chicago, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles on an academic scholarship from Chapman University. Her senior thesis was the film entitled Freedom from Despair a documentary about the Croatian people’s struggle against the Yugoslavian Communist regime. The film has since gone on to win awards at numerous film festivals propelling Brkusic into the lime light at only 23 years of age.
Brenda Brkusic: The film has done tremendously well and has been highly praised by both Croatians and non-Croatians. It had had a world premiere in the Amnesty International Film Festival at the Directors Guild in Hollywood. I felt like by screening the film they were finally recognizing the Croatian story as a true and valid history that has been neglected for too long. They also want to put the film in University libraries in the United States, so I feel like that’s a big step for all of us as far as having a reference about our history.
Josip Serdarevic: Once word got around about the film’s principal themes, some influential figures got behind it and provided it with a much higher profile than an average student film would get.
Brenda Brkusic: Nenad Bach has always been a big support of the idea of the film and he offered to compose the score for the film. And he recommended me to a few famous actors in Hollywood: Michael York, who has been very involved with Croatian things and he did the voice-overs for the interviews that are in Croatian. John Savage who has acted in Academy Award Winning films, he did the narration for the film. And also Congressman Dennis Kucinich, he was just running for President of the United States and he is interviewed in the film as well. So I had support from a lot of great people and I was very lucky to have these names attached to the film it gives the film a lot of creditability, of course.
Josip Serdarevic: The reasons for Brenda Brkusic’s impetuous for the project are much closer to home. Given that she’s a second generation American, she does have some distance from Croatia and its events, but her objectivity doesn’t obstruct the personal attachment to the film’s topics.
Brenda Brkusic: When the war broke out in 1991 I was only 10 years old and my parents became very active in trying to get the first President George Bush and the American media to recognize Croatia’s freedom movement. And seeing them stand up for justice in that way made me appreciate our culture more but also made me want to know more about why my father was so interested in wanting to help his homeland and why he had escaped Yugoslavia to come to America as a young man. That’s when he told me the story of how he suffered as Croatian in Communist Yugoslavia and how he risked his life to escape. I knew that this was a story that represented millions of people who had done the same thing and that story had never really been told before.
Josip Serdarevic: The film has done well for itself and has been screened all of the United States and at the Dubrovnik Film Festival. Brkusic plans to extend screenings of the documentary in Canada and Australia. Interested viewers from both sides of the border can catch the film at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Windsor, Ontario this Sunday, December the 12th.