Serbia’s first film participating in the Oscars, Dara iz Jasenovca (Dara from Jasenovac), has created tension in Serbo-Croat diplomatic relations. Croatia heavily criticises Predrag Antonijević’s film for its portrayal of the Holocaust in the country, accusing it of serving a political agenda.
The feature film is set in the Croatian extermination camp of Jasenovac during World War II, seen through the eyes of Dara, a 10-year old Serbian prisoner. From 1941 to 1945 80,000 internees, mostly Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croats, were murdered in the Jasenovac camp, under the government of the Ustasha, allied with the Third Reich.
The Croatian political class is outraged
Released in the United States on February 5th this landmark film was submitted for the 2021 Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category – but not nominated. The Serbian premiere is scheduled for April 21st but Croatian politicians are outraged. In November 2019, Croatian Culture Minister Nina ObuljenVečernji declared:
“Following the recent media coverage in Serbia, but also in some Croatian media, it is clear that there is another attempt to abuse the subject of Jasenovac, which should always be condemned.”
A Variety journalist bluntly accused the film of “barely disguised propaganda” while the Los Angeles Times regretted “a settling of scores”. The film’s director, Predrag Antonijević, threatens to sue the paper for denying the “genocide committed against the Serbs during the Second World War”, considering the article as “an insult to all the victims.”
The controversy comes just a few years after the Jews of Croatia, together with Croatian Serbs, boycotted the 2016 commemoration of the victims of Jasenovac to protest against the rise of Ustashi ideology. In April 2018 an exhibition on the camp organized in New York was also accused of propaganda and “of exploiting the memory of the victims.”
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