Established by the Independent State of Croatia, under the rule of the fascist Ustase government, Jasenovac was a chain of extermination camps designed to murder Serbs, Jews, and Roma people during World War II. Significantly, they were the only such camps in Europe run by non-Germans.
So opens Dara of Jasenovac, a joyless slog that feels as distinct as a leafless tree in winter. Written by Natasa Drakulic and directed by Predrag Antonijevic, Dara of Jasenovac is a Serbian historical drama following 10-year-old Dara (Biljana Čekić), a daughter separated from her parents and older brother and sent to a children-only camp in the Balkans. Dara makes it her mission to protect her 2-year-old brother and survive the horrors of war.
And horrors there are in triplicate: From a murderous game of musical chairs to the cold slaughter of the young and the old, healthy and infirmed, for little more reason than bullets are cheap and the those in charge are evil. And in presenting these deaths, Dara of Jasenovac feels cheap, too. The images are dull, the performances are bland, and the story is rote. Holocaust dramas aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but if you’re going to go here and ask these actors to put on these clothes and play these roles, not to mention: ask the audience to go along for the ride, then more is needed than a simplified exploration of the inhumanities of existence. The story of Jasenovac may not be as well known as Auschwitz, Buchenwald, or Dachau, but after 130 minutes of misery and murder, it really doesn’t matter what name is on the door.
Dara of Jasenovac (2020)
Directed by Predrag Antonijevic
Written by Natasa Drakulic
Produced by Predrag Antonijevic, Maksa Catovic
Starring: Biljana Čekić, Vuk Kostić, Marko Janketić, Igor Đorđević
101 Studios, Rated R, Running time 130 minutes, Opens in theaters Feb. 5, 2020.