Jasenovac: the Auschwitz of the Balkans, as seen through the eyes of Serbian, ten-year-old “Dara”; director Predrag Antonijevic concentrates on the entrepreneurial system of slaughter perpetrated on the Serbs by Ustasas (Croation Revolutionary Movement) mimicking Nazi’s “Final Solution”; ingrained xenophobia practiced without impunity on men, women and their progeny; games of execution visited upon inmates and children, witnessed by Dara, a child-woman protecting her two-year-old brother; based on the testimonies of survivors, rawness of death without reason, mankind sacrificed because of cultural identity, massacring sensitivities on an altar pulsating with “man’s inhumanity to man”.
Problematic is Serbian director Antonijevic’s agenda; the film is heavily sensationalist, manipulative; sins of the Croats deservedly exacerbated, but bludgeoning. The Catholic Church, complicit with the Nazi regime (Adolf Hitler was a Catholic, never excommunicated) play an integral part of the film: proselytization, conversion of the children taught by haranguing nuns, they also condone the murder of frail and sickly infants; is the intent, a soul searing chastisement of deep-rooted jingoism, historically festering between the Serbs and the Croats? Bothersome is the mirage invention, poetic license, of the dead climbing into a snow-covered box car, as if one could unremember the method in which they died.
“Dara From Jasenovac” Serbia’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards is profoundly acted by Bijana Cekic (Dora), lofty topography; should be seen, but will never enjoy the sovereignty of Holocaust royalty: “Shoah”, “Schindler’s List”, “Son of Saul”, “The Pianist”, “Life is Beautiful” and others worthy of the realm.