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By Nenad N. Bach | Published  11/11/2004 | Culture And Arts | Unrated


"Freedom from Despair," the acclaimed documentary by Brenda Brkusic is playing in New York, Chicago, San Pedro and Windsor

Please mark the following fundraiser screenings on your calendar and please donate what you can to help the film: (please note new location for San Pedro)

Sunday, November 21, 2004 at 1:30pm (after mass)
St. Raphael's Parish Center
W41 St. (bt 10/11 Ave), New York
NY Contact: Nick Krasnic
(after the Parish screening we will meet up again later in the evening for another Freedom From Despair screening at a local NY film festival. For more information about that screening please )

Sunday, November 28, 2004 at 6:00pm
Croatian Cultural Center of Chicago
2845 W Devon Ave Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Contact: Mijo Vodopic 
with sepcial guest -Croatian Consule General, Zorica Matkov

Sunday, December 5, 2004 at 3:00pm (after mass)
Croatian American Hall
631 West 9th Street San Pedro, California
San Pedro Contacts: Milan Vukovic and Jeff Bacic 
A prominent TV station will be there covering the San Pedro event to finish a story about the community coming together to support Brenda and her film! It is important to have a full audience for the press. We had 300 people in LA and we would like to match that number in San Pedro on December 5. With sepcial guests - famous actors from the film.

Sunday, Decemer 12, 2004 (after mass)
St Francis of Assisi Church
1701 Turner Road Windsor, Ontario
Windsor Contact: Sonny Kekelj 
This screening is in conjunction with the Parish's annual appreciation lunch!

A very special thank you to Tom Rinear for sponsoring Brenda Brkusic's flight from Los Angeles to Chicago so that she will be able to attend the Chicago film screening! And a very special thank you to Michael Kustra and family for offering to host Brenda Brkusic in their home during the New York screening.

A note from Milan Vukovic:
This highly acclaimed film is truly the story of all Croatians and the Croatian National Association (Udruga) is proud to sponsor the showing of this film with the generous support of volunteers in each city . You will also be able to meet and speak to Brenda Brkusic in person in NY, Chicago and San Pedro. This is a fundraiser for Brenda to be able to continue promoting the film. If you think as highly of this film as we do your tax deductible donation will be gratefully accepted after the screening. If you can not make it to one of these screenings, please visit the film's website  for more information on how to donate to the film.

Please remember, if we support each other's events, not only will they be more profitable, they'll also be more fun! Zivili!!!

Milan Vukovic
President, Croatian National Association

A note from Brenda Brkusic:
I want to sincerely thank everyone for their continued support and encouragement as I work to get Freedom From Despair shown in the American mainstream media. Your attendance at this screening and your donations will be crucial in gaining the support needed to go further with promoting the film and will mean so much to me and to all the people who told their life stories in the film. In two years, working 20 hours a day with little funds, I tried to make a film that all would be proud of - a film that tells the Croatian story in an easy to understand, professional and entertaining format. The film festival acceptances, the awards won, and the great newspaper reviews have been a blessing. Croatians have laughed and cried while seeing their own stories represented on the screen - the film is a rollercoaster of emotions that I know everyone will relate to in some way. I am ecstatic to share the film with you and ask for your support in making this journey a success. I continue to apply to film festivals and seek distribution every day. I need you help. I look forward to meeting all of you.

With much love and respect,

Brenda Brkusic
Filmmaker, Freedom From Despair

FREEDOM FROM DESPAIR - starring Michael York, John Savage, Beata Pozniak and Dennis Kucinich. Music by Nenad Bach.

PRESS RELEASE: LA showings of "Freedom from Despair" a Success 

Hrvatsko Slovo Newspaper review of the film: 

Kodak review of the film: 

“Freedom from Despair is a powerful, moving film, documenting a much neglected piece of modern history - Croatia’s struggle for independence from the repression of Tito’s Yugoslavia and the brutality of the Balkan War. Brenda Brkusic has created a memorable portrait of a people, a culture, and one man’s hard-fought journey to freedom.?
-David S. Ward, Academy Award Winning Filmmaker

“Brenda Brkusic has a very inspired directorial approach, and she achieved dramatic tension and rhythm, which even after one and one half hours time does not leave the viewer unmoved. Not only did she master her film profession, it is also obvious that she is a very gifted young film director, as she as a 23-year old made a mature and serious film for which even older colleagues in this domain could be envious.?
-Hrvatsko Slovo Newspaper

"In a time when there are a lot of films made about nothing, Freedom from Despair is a film about something very important. It is a film that shows us that there are still things in this world that are worthy of our tears. Some films feel as if they have to be made, and this is one."
-Lewis Chesler, Juror, 2004 Dubrovnik International Film Festival

“Brenda Brkusic, American film producer of Croatian descent, is one of these authors we have been waiting for: young, gifted and brave. Brenda presented this tale without exaggeration, honestly and sincerely, with the author's courage which is imposing, but which is also without any ideology and propaganda. She gave through her personal dimension a very vivid presentation of a totalitarian time, the darkest sides of a system which mercilessly trampled human rights.?
-Hrvatsko Slovo Newspaper

“It cannot be denied that the young director, screenwriter and producer took pains to make a quality presentation.?
-Vecernji List Newspaper

"Congratulations on a magnificent film! Everyone coming to Croatia should see it. And now Iraq. You're effort has world relevence. We must not be so passive. As for the skill, the careful crafting, the checking, the sheer hard work involved....BRAVO! This is my first visit to Croatia but not my last. Like too many people, I never really knew where it was or what happened here. Now, thanks to you, I know exactly - and I will spread the word. It will always be a place in my heart. May you make many more meaningful films. Thank you for caring and sharing.?
-Emily, South Africa

“Freedom from Despair is the epitome of an independent film, a labor of love.?
-Pete Weitzner, PBS Producer

“Freedom from Despair is an extraordinary, thoroughly engrossing, accomplished and very moving film.?
-Michael York, Actor

“Brenda, this film is important for the world. You’re work is admired by me, as is your personality. You’re a wonderful woman. God bless you.?
-John Savage, Actor

“WOW! We both loved it. You have a great understanding of the audience's mental state, where we are, what we're thinking, wondering, hoping for, and your film goes in directions easy to follow, inspiring, peaceful, and tragic. I loved the scene in the woods where the three boys were talking about seeing New York and Hollywood. Great job, you should be very proud.?
-Dave Codeglia, filmmaker

“I really liked your documentary. At some moments I found myself getting choked up. You really hit on the head the hardships the cause went through to get where it is today. It's not easy to take on this type of subject matter, and I think you did an excellent job.?
-James Codeglia, filmmaker

“You are wonderful. When I received the film I disconnected my phone to watch it without disturbance. Throughout the whole time watching it, my emotions took over and my tears were flowing. I have shown the film to close friends and all I hear from them is "oh my God, we can see ourselves in this film. We were all forced out of our home the same way." I loved it. I do thank you so much for your kindness. I'm so happy to know you and your family.?
Anthony Dizdar, Delaware

“It was an honor to watch the film today, and I am so proud of what you did
to show what really happened with our country of heritage. I truly believe that you will go places in your film career - you are smart, beautiful, talented, and work hard. Keep it going, and I look forward to many more Brenda Brkusic productions.?
-Tom Rinear, Los Angeles

“We were very moved and impressed by your film. We were both in tears at different points and though it was 95 minutes, we were captivated throughout. You truly captured the struggles of your people and it left us frustrated and angry once again at our own country's apathy when it doesn't benefit us. Your Father and Mother must be very proud of you. It took great courage and perseverance to make such a powerful film. It was also moving to be in the company of Croatians. I could feel their pain as your Father and others told their story. I bet you blew Chapman away when they saw your film. This is not a student film! Your powerful film is top notch.?
-Georgiana Gomez, filmmaker

"It was my pleasure meeting you and supporting your fantastic film. From the trailer on the web site, I knew that it was going to be a well done film, however, the editing, the in takes, the interviews, and your father’s story were amazing. His plight and belief in Croatia resonated throughout this film, and your passion was evident. It’s great that you remembered me and I thank you! Little did I know that this epic project you were working on was so wonderful and so you. You really personify grace, Hollywood and passion for Croatia. I am thrilled that you have the courage, strength and will to take on such a huge project. “Freedom of Despair? has given me the courage to write my Father’s story, and somewhere inside of me, I’ve always wanted to do a documentary on my Dad. There are literally millions of stories like our parents that should be shared and told so that these people can find their peace. "
-Michelle Dunaj, South Florida

“The film deals with a complex set of events and circumstances in a very professional manner. It weaves together the personal experiences of several individuals with the struggles of the Croatian people from after World War II to the present. Its use of scholarly commentators, political activists, personal accounts, and excellent archival material to create the sweeping story of a nation's determination to be free is accomplished masterfully. The film showing was greatly enhanced by having the author/director present and willing to respond to questions at the conclusion of the film. She brought a personal commitment and involvement that supplied a strong emotional impact for all those in attendance. The viewers were clearly caught up in the drama of the documentary, and raised significant questions about the history presented as well as the process of producing such an important film with little financial backing. The college students in particular received an important lesson in history, but even more significantly an important lesson in dedication to a project and what can be accomplished through such dedication. I was thoroughly involved in the documentary, and came away with an increased admiration for the Croatian people and their struggles to overcome both a Communist regime and Serbian domination. The film reinforced my sense of the power of a people to preserve its culture and political autonomy.?
-Dr. Thomas McFadden, President, Marymount College

“I enjoyed your film very much, as it made me better understand what my own father went through when escaping communist Yugoslavia. It touched both him and myself. My father escaped from Yugoslavia at a young age, and he, like your father, was born in 1939, however in Split. As a consequence from my father successfully escaping, my grandparents and first cousin were tortured for a long period of time by the secret police. As you already know, your father's experience is a story many individuals share. I am extremely glad you made this film. People throughout the world are unaware of the inhumane actions that occurred under the communist regime. This film accurately depicts the situation, and in my opinion, is a terrific representation of how to inform the public of what many individuals experienced in the former Yugoslavia.?
- Ivana Odak, Southern California

“I really liked it. It was long, but I felt like I learned a lot about something I knew nothing about. I was interested by the personal story but also the politics behind it all. Social justice is important to me. Everyone (in attendance) was interested and I think we all liked it. I really liked her (Brenda’s) attitude and, really, her presence. She was very down to earth and proud of her heritage and work. I think she is a good role model for Marymount to present to the students.?
-Student, Marymount College

“Brenda, you have grown so much over these past three years, not only in competence and skill but in a host of personal ways. You manage to combine your gentle, compassionate manner with an admirable determination and sense of justice. That is a great combination.?
-Dr. Thomas McFadden, President, Marymount College

“I think it is a moving, intelligent piece; One that I learned a lot from and appreciate for that.?
-Representative, Paramount Classics

“I had the privilege of seeing Freedom from Despair and I thought it was a courageous and remarkable film. I strongly feel this film should be in every Croatian family’s home – and every year on its national independence day all families should see it again. Freedom was bought at a very high price and many people paid so that others may live in freedom. Congratulations for a magnificent film. I am not Croatian, but I can identify with those who fight for the right, liberty and freedom of others. I’m an American born in Texas; lived in this parish over 50 years. My family has war veterans who have contributed to the freedom of the U.S.A. Congratulations.?
-Rosa M. Salazar, Los Angeles

“It's quite honestly one of my favorite selections for the festival year. As a former NYU film student I must say you have quite an impressive work here, in terms of both technique and content, something that you should rightfully be very proud of. This film is important in so many ways and I want to make sure it gets the reception that it deserves. On a personal note, I'm looking forward to meeting you and hopefully getting the chance to hear about your experiences shooting this and what you're up to next. Thanks for making such a great film to celebrate at this Festival.?
-Shawn Kittelsen, New York International Independent Film Festival

“I am pleased to share that I have been so fortunate to meet Brenda while working with her to speak at our “the Nuts and Bolts of Leadership Series.? Brenda is an intelligent and dynamic woman whose future has great promise. On behalf of Marymount College, we are proud of her accomplishments as a young alumna. Like the others who attended the Freedom from Despair screening on the Marymount College Campus, I was close to tears on several occasions. It was indeed a privilege to experience such a powerful and moving film.?
-Christine Leible, Director, Alumni Relations, Marymount College

“Although I didn’t see the film, I feel attached to it from what I read about it, given that Yugoslav communists caused life-time disability to my father (who lives here now, and feels good here), and a lot of grievances to entire family during their reign. Your effort to disclose the evils of communism is greatly appreciated; the truth about it is soothing for the souls of all those who suffered from it. My father, and my family, surely did, a lot.?
-Ivana, Montreal, Quebec

"I absolutley loved the film. The qaulity was leaps and bounds above any other film we've ever received for the International Student Film Festival Hollywood."
- Kevin McKenna, Director of Investigative Documentaries Educating American Society

Producer, Writer, Director, Editor

Brenda Brkusic was born in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles on an academic scholarship from Chapman University, graduating with highest honors with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film and Television Writing and Directing. At Chapman, she gained experience in production, as a post production supervisor, script supervisor, and dance choreographer on various short films. She wrote, produced, directed and edited her senior thesis documentary Freedom from Despair, shooting in California, Chicago and Croatia during the summer of 2003. Recognizing her efforts, Chapman Film School awarded her its Marion Knott Scholarship, which afforded her the opportunity to work one on one with Academy Award winning filmmaker David S. Ward. Since then, praise for this film has steadily grown. Brenda has been invited to her Alma Mater, Marymount College, to be a featured speaker in their leadership series, was hired to speak in a documentary class sponsored by the International Documentary Association at San Pedro High School, was featured on PBS television, Associated Press Video News, in the LA Times, won Best Documentary and Special Recognition honors at the Student Filmmaker Awards and the Dubrovnik International Film Festival, and been covered in multiple international newspapers and magazines. She is gaining a reputation as an important new voice and her writing about Croatia has been published in the Washington Times. Freedom from Despair was recognized by Amnesty International, as one of the most important documentary films this year, and invited to have a world premiere in their film festival at the Director's Guild in Hollywood. Another human rights organization, The Anti-Defamation League, has named the film a Finalist in their current competition. She continues to make her home in Los Angeles.

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