Freedom from Despair


This award-winning film uncovers the long history of suppression and abuse of the Croatian people and their struggle for independence from communist Yugoslavia.

Written, produced, and directed by KOCE's own Brenda Brkusic, this film follows the journey of Kruno Brkusic, a Croatian Catholic who was repeatedly jailed by communists and managed to escape the country on foot, at age 17. We watch as Kruno and thousands of Croatian-Americans demonstrate on Capitol Hill during the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, pushing George H.W. Bush to recognize Croatia while the nation watched the carnage on television. This film reveals the atrocities committed and hidden by the communist government of Yugoslavia and its allies — piecing together a shocking truth that lay silenced for 60 years.

"A powerful, moving film...Brenda Brkusic has created a memorable portrait of a people, a culture, and one man’s hard-fought journey to freedom." - David S. Ward, Academy Award winning filmmaker

"Brenda Brkusic’s documentary is an example of sublime filmmaking that poignantly tells the story of one brave man and translates his experience into powerful and compelling statements about the human spirit, political agendas, and global responsibility. Amnesty International commends Brenda for this filmic achievement and we hope that she continues to bring socially conscious films to the attention of audiences around the world." - Bonnie Abaunza, Director of Artists for Amnesty International

Freedom from Despair has Received the Following Awards:

  • Special Recognition by US Congress on the Congressional Record of the US House of Representatives
  • Special Invitation only screening for the European Parliament in Brussels at the International Leaders Summit
  • Special Recognition by Amnesty International
  • CINE Golden Eagle Award
  • CINE Special Jury Award
  • Nominee - International Documentary Association (IDA)
  • David L. Wolper Distinguished Documentary Achievement Award
  • Best Documentary - New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
  • Best Documentary - International Student Film Festival Hollywood
  • Best Documentary - Marion Knott Studios Cecil Awards
  • Viewer's Voice Award - Cinequest Film Festival
  • Golden Reel Award - Tiburon International Film Festival
  • Best Student Film - Westwood International Film Festival
  • Remi Award, World Peace and Understanding
  • WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
  • Special Recognition - Dubrovnik International Film Festival
  • Finalist - The Anti-Defamation League

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