As seen in Arena Magazine, Croatia
Written by Snjezana Ivic
-Although she was born in the United States and has lived there for 23 years, Brenda Brkusicâ™s artistic interest is in Croatia. The daughter of Croatian immigrants to the US Grozdana Ukas from Jezera on the island of Murter and Krunoslav Brkusic from Bogomolje on the island of Hvar, Brenda is one of the best film and TV directing students at Chapman University in Orange, California. Her documentary film Freedom From Despair will one day be shown on American TV networks.
-Last year the young film artist shot scenes for the movie in Lepoglava Prison and on the island of Hvar where she recreated the life of her father, Krunoslav Brkusic, who because of political reasons had to leave, as Brenda said, âœthe most beautiful country on this earth.â? But why did he have to leave Croatia? That is the question that she has been concerned with since 13 years ago when her father used to hold passionate speeches in pro-Croatian demonstrations in Washington D.C., engaging the entire family to help out during the homeland war. In the film she tackled the theme of Communist persecution and she shot an interview with Marko Dizdar, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience and President of the association for Political Prisoners under Communism. In Lepoglava Prison she shot in a cell where Marko Dizdar was imprisoned for 12 years. In addition to him, there are two very prominent Croatian Americans interviewed in the film - US Congressman George Radanovich of California and and US Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio who is also a candidate for President of the USA. There are many others in the film whose statements paint a picture of the suffering endured by Croats under Communism. The music is composed by Nenad Bach, a respected Croatian living in New York. Film students in Croatia and America helped Brenda by donating their time and offering to assist with research. An interview with Brenda along with a preview of her film was shown before Christmas on the American TV station PBS. She even succeeded in gaining the attention of Amnesty International, who have supported her in her effort to approach famous actors about reading the narration for the film. âœI am hoping that with their help Goran Visnjic will consider participating in the movie. Even though we live in the same city and I have been in the studio during a filming of ER, I am very sorry that I did not have the opportunity to tell him about the project. If he were to contribute to this film it would be a great promotion for the film, and it would probably help with showcasing it on American TV.â? The film will have a Croatian Premiere in the Dubrovnik International Film Festivalâ™s documentary category in May.
-After escaping from the Communist regime, Brendaâ™s parents met in US and were married in 1967. Her father started a business in Chicago called Industrial Service Products where he employed about 15 people, making his son Brianâ™s and daughter Brendaâ™s life very nice. And although Brenda grew up in a middle class Suburb of Chicago, Croatian culture was always a big part of her life. From childhood she enjoyed dancing. From tap, ballet to hip â“hop, she danced in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami until she moved to California to start her independent student life, where she began teaching dance lessons on the side to make money. From age 13, she was working as a model for hair and clothes, but for her life profession, she decided to become a writer and director of films. Chapman University recognized her talent and ambition and awarded her with a scholarship. Last year she was made a short documentary called My Croatia, a story about Boska Marcelic, a Croatian immigrant in the US who tries to retain her cultural identity. Freedom From Despair is her final project to graduate from Chapman and she is one the 5 best students out of 800 candidates to receive the Marion Knott Scholarship. This has given her the chance to work on the film during post-production with very the respected director David S. Ward as her mentor - well know for the film Sleepless in the Seattle with Tom Hanks.
-âœEven though I have been very connected with Croatia from childhood, I visited the country for the first time in 1996. After that, I returned a few times on vacation and went last summer to film the movie. I have many friends and cousins in Croatia, one of which is Gibonni, who unfortunately I have not yet met. Many singers from Croatia who come on tours in the US are friends with my father and often they stay in our house. Because of this, we always have news from the homeland in Chicago. Freedom From Despair tells the story of my father Kruno, who was a young boy was imprisoned and harassed by the Communist regime. He escaped to Italy in 1957 risking his own life, and he found his dream of freedom in America. When Yugoslavia broke apart he was determined to become a voice of truth for Croatia in the American media. I was only 10 years old then, but witnessing him stand up for justice in that way will be deep in my mind forever. So today when I have time, I write to newspapers to try and dispel lies and fabrications that are printed about Croatia. I am especially happy that in this film, Marko Dizdar and Father Petar Bezina were able to tell their life story to the world. And perhaps my next film will also be a Croatian story.â?