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Lea & Darija  cover photo

Lea & Darija 2011


Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films Ltd., P.O.Box 7153, Jerusalem, 91071, ISRAEL
Produced by Lidija Ivanda
Directed by Branko Ivanda
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Judaism, Adolescents, Croatia, Dance, Jewish Holocaust, World War II

Date Entered: 09/05/2013

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

This film, both charming and sad, concerns the fates of two girls in Croatia before and during World War II. One, a Jewish girl named Lea Deutsch was known as the “Croatian Shirley Temple” and appeared on stage throughout the Balkans. The other girl was her dancing partner, Darija Gasteiger, who was VolkDeutsch or an ethnic German. The two in the 18 months leading up to the invasion of Yugoslavia by Germany in April of 1941 become quite famous in Croatia and Western Europe. Lea’s fame alone is such that the French Pathé Studio travels to Zagreb to film her. After the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the establishment of a client Croatian state, things become a bit dicey. Lea, along with all the other Jews in Croatia, is required to identify herself as a Jew by wearing a patch on her clothing and is also compelled to leave school. In order to forestall possible persecution, Lea and her brother are baptized in the Catholic Church, but her family has to endure increasingly severe privations until Lea, her mother and brother are shipped off to the camps. Miraculously, her father was institutionalized and survived the war.

Darija becomes well-known in Germany and is invited to be filmed by UFA in Berlin. Frau Gasteiger asks one of Darija’s instructors to accompany them to Berlin, which has become “the center of the world.” Still, throughout all this the two girls are loyal and steadfast friends. Darija’s family leaves Yugoslavia for Austria before the Communists take power in 1944. It is noted that Darija is still living.

The Ivandas have produced a story that, although based on actual events and people, is not a documentary. The two principle actresses do a commendable job in portraying the title characters. Dialogue is either Croatian or German with subtitles. Some background knowledge of the history of Yugoslavia in the 1939-1944 timeframe will make some of the events portrayed a understandable for those unfamiliar with Yugoslav/Croatian history. The sound is Dolby 2.0 and is all very well done as is the photography.

Recommended for all high school and adult audiences.