Dana Budisavljević: The Diary of Diana B.

The Filmkommentaren posts about this film goes back to 2010, where Dana B., the Croatian director of the film, presented the project at the Greek Storydoc. I was part of the Ex Oriente 2011, when Dana took part, searching for a way to tell the amazing story about an amazing woman, a true hero. Finding new material again and again. Researching for years. ”I wanted to make a true and honest film”. In 2008 at the Sarajevo FF, she came to show the solutions, she had found, I repeat myself: 


„Dana Budisavljevic is the director who pitched together with producer Miljenka Cogelja. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman Diana Budisavljevic, who during WW2 helped children, mostly Orthodox, herself being Catholic, out of the concentration camps set up by the Germans and their Croatian partners, the Ustashas. It’s 10000 children and the film is a docufiction using an actress to play DB, sequences with survivors who go the places, where the camps were and shocking archive material from the camps. The director has – from the scenes I saw – found her form, she has made her aesthetic choice, b/w and colour mixed, the b/w maybe tinted a bit, it looked impressive…”

And now finally I got to watch the final film, that premiered last year in July, through a link provided by the director. And I am full of admiration. The film is stylistically in full control moving smoothly from fiction scenes with actors to arranged scenes where survivors are taken back to the locations of the ustasha concentraton camps to almost unbearable archive material from the camps, where Diana B. rescued the children through her own campaign, with big risks. You see children, who were taken away from the camp, including many who would not survive their bad health situation.

On the photo above you see Diana B. – played by the actress Alma Prica – and her husband (Igor Samobor) in a key scene, where he, successful doctor, asks her to stop her campaign. He takes out his identity card that says “Serb 498” – I am orthodox, it can be dangerous if you continue. She does.

Dana B. has based her film on the diaries of Diana B., as the title says. In a fine interview from Cineuropa – link below – she reflects on docu and fiction – “…one of them had to be understated, and I decided that the fiction scenes would be the understated ones so that they could expose the facts and re-tell the story of Diana. They could show what happened because the witnesses could not possibly know that. They could bring out the emotion because they remember the camps, but they do not know who saved them, who Diana was or how she got involved. They were selected carefully and filmed in a certain way so that they could be on an equal footing with the fictional characters…”

Very clever and so well done, balanced with an intense atmosphere and very good cinematic solutions like the one that starts and ends the film: Zivko, a witness, in a boat on a lake, says that he does not know, who were his parents or where he was born or what name was given to him – I only have this, the number on a coin around the neck given to him at the camp.

The film won 4 awards at the festival in Pula last July. And it was shown at Gothenburg FF this year; in the catalogue Diana Budisavljevic is compared to Wallenberg and Schindler.

Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, 2019, 88 mins.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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