The crew of the long-awaited film by Dana Budisavljević, the Diary of Diana B., presented the film in front of a numerous audience at a press conference ahead of this evening’s screening at the Arena.
As Dana Budisavljević pointed out, even though she and Diana almost share a name, they are not related. Diana’s diary was found only after her death and it was then that all of her actions were brought to light. Diana started a risky operation of saving more than 10 thousand children from the Ustasha camps in Nazi-occupied Croatia with the help of a few friends. At one point, her Austrian descent worked to her advantage, but in the midst of historical turmoil it came to be a burden, resulting in one of the most biggest humanitarian stories of World War II being left untold.
Dana Budisavljević decided to tell the story that was left untold for 70 years, and has worked on the film for ten years. “It was only in 2004 that Diana’s diary was found, bringing to light her activities that not even her family were aware of”, said Budisavljević, who started to research the historical events in more depth in 2010. She wanted to speak about the historical events by telling the stories of the saved children.
Historian Silvestar Mileta has interviewed more than 100 people in his research for the film, mostly the saved children he had found across former Yugoslavia. “Many of them don’t even remember the camps or how they were saved because they were just children at the time and didn’t realise what was going on”, Mileta said and emphasised that he has contacted 25 archival institutions in both Croatia and beyond and has used detective work, investigative journalism, and many other research methods in their efforts to tell the story.
Alma Prica is the lead actress, but was unable to come to Pula. She did, however, send a message, saying that she is thinking about the film crew, the audience at the Arena, and the once children who had witnessed the whole story. She also thanked Diana Budisavljević for what she has done for them.
Urša Raukar is one of the supporting actresses, and said that it was an honour for her to be in this film. “This is an extremely important film. We have to fight against hatred, against exclusion, and be strong enough to be human and extend our hand to those who are weaker”, she said and appealed for The Diary of Diana Budisavljević to be included in required reading in schools.
Vilim Matula plays the role of the German officer. “I’ve played similar roles many times, but I was never this certain that what I was doing made this much sense”, he said and emphasised that this film and the story of Diana Budisavljević bring hope that there are still people in this world who do wonderful things, but have not been identified.
Alen and Nenad Sinkauz were in charge of the score. Alen attended the press conference and said that working on this film was a great challenge, as he had little time to do the score. “After watching the film, it has really engraved in my mind, and I have to say that this is the most important work we’ve done so far, on a human level”, he said. “This is quiet, exquisite film, with long pauses, and the music for it simply flowed out. We used the cello for the theme song, which was masterfully performed by Bika Blašković”, Alen Sinkauz said.
DOP Jasenko Rasol said they talked a lot about whether the film should be black and white: “As it is a hybrid form of a documentary-live action-archival film, we settled on black and white as the right choice”.
Production designer Dušan Milavec said the filming was done in and around Zagreb and at the railway station in Nova Gorica.
Slovenian co-producer Vlado Bulajić heard about and was attracted to the story a long time ago and is glad to have been part of this film.
Young actor Kristian Bonačić has a small role in the film and only filmed for a day, but he is very much looking forward to watching the film.
At the end of the press conference, Dana Budisavljević said it is a great opportunity that the film will be screened at the Arena with an audience of 6,000 people, and added that the film will have a lovely future in terms of distribution.