Film by Chapman University Alumnus, Brkusic, Now Channel Manager and Producer for KOCE-TV’s OC Channel, Uncovers the History of Suppression Suffered by the Croatian People as They Struggled for Independence

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (June 4, 2009) – It was announced that KOCE-TV producer and Channel Manager Brenda Brkusic has recently won the prestigious TELLY Award for her film Freedom from Despair. The Telly Awards honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions. The 29th Annual Telly Awards received over 14,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. Today, the Telly is one of the most sought-after awards by industry leaders. Designed by the same firm that makes the Oscar® and Emmy®, the Telly statuette weighs more than 4 1/2 pounds. Previous Telly winners included Court TV, Cox Communications, E! Networks, Harpo Studios, Universal Studios Hollywood, HBO, History Channel, PBS, Warner Brothers, A & E and NBC, as well as independent producers. Programs that received the Telly Award in previous years include Six Feet Under, Planet Earth, American Masters, the Sopranos, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and 30 Rock.

Freedom from Despair uncovers the long history of suppression and abuse of the Croatian people and their struggle for independence from Tito’s Yugoslavia, using as its focus the dramatized true story of Kruno Brkusic, Brenda’s father, who risked his life to escape the regime. The film is narrated by celebrated actors Michael York (Cabaret, Austin Powers), John Savage (The Deer Hunter, The Thin Red Line), and Beata Pozniak (JFK) and includes interviews with U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich.

“[Freedom from Despair] creatively portrays the power of the human spirit and the tenets of democracy, without preaching or the use of propaganda,” said Congressman Kucinich for the Congressional Record. Brkusic’s work to promote human rights has been recognized and honored by the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Kucinich continued, “Brenda is a courageous and hardworking young woman who has been identified as a visionary in the Croatian community.”

Brkusic joined KOCE-TV in 2006 as an associate producer on the Emmy Award-winning nightly news program Real Orange, and is currently the producer and channel manager spearheading KOCE-TV's new OC Channel. Since graduating from Chapman University with a degree in film and television, she has toured the world showcasing her documentary. Brkusic has gained a reputation as an important new voice in the documentary field and was nominated in 2005 for the International Documentary Association’s (IDA) Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award. Freedom from Despair screened for members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium for the Fourth Annual International Summit on Economic Growth: The Future of Transatlantic Relations. The film has been featured in 15 national and international festivals, has completed a 50-city tour throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, and Brkusic has garnered a dozen notable awards including:

• Telly Award
• Arts Orange County Nomination, Best Visual Artist Award, Brenda Brkusic
• OC Metro Business Magazine Top Business Executive Under 40 Years Old – Brenda Brkusic
• CINE Golden Eagle Award (previously awarded to Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ken Burns)
• 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 • Remi Award, World Peace and Understanding — WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
• Viewer's Voice Award — Cinequest Film Festival
• Recognized by Amnesty International and the Anti-Defamation League

Freedom from Despair uses first-hand interviews, stock footage, news reels and narrative recreations shot in the United States and Croatia to reveal 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. The film follows the journey of Kruno Brkusic, a Croatian Catholic who was repeatedly jailed by communists and who managed to escape the country on foot with nothing more than a book of matches and a compass at age 17, later becoming a pro-Croatian activist in the United States. 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. Film interviewees include an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, U.S. Congressmen, a priest, a concentration camp survivor, authors on Croatian history, as well as Kruno, his childhood friends, and his family.

“I had filmed in Croatia during the Balkan War (Gospa), and had been made aware of the issues that [Brkusic] deals with in her extraordinary documentary at first hand,” said Michael York. “I think [the film] is a remarkable achievement.” In a recent television interview on KOCE, York called Brkusic “irresistible,” “fearless and intrepid,” and noted that it took a lot of courage and passion for Brkusic to produce such an extraordinary film and to get the truth spoken with such clarity.

KOCE-TV President and CEO Mel Rogers was impressed with the film and gave it a television debut on KOCE last year. “I'm thrilled that Freedom from Despair has won a 2009 Telly Award. It makes me even more proud that KOCE has broadcast the show and, in a small way, helped it become a known entity and uplifting experience for many people. [Brenda] is to be commended for what [she has] accomplished. The recognition of [her] skills as a producer is well deserved.”

More information about the film is available at


KOCE-TV is the sixth-most watched PBS station in America with an estimated 5.8 million viewers* monthly. KOCE’s award-winning programming offers the fifth-largest county in the nation a long-standing community hub for local news, culture and features, and broadcasts the best available national PBS programs to the entire Southern California five-county region. Known for its outstanding dedication to education, KOCE Classroom serves more than a half million K-12 students. A national Roper poll recently ranked PBS as number one in public trust for the fourth consecutive year.** The winner of hundreds of awards including Emmys and Community Service Awards, KOCE continues to be a vital community resource and connector for Southern California. For more information, please visit

* Nielsen Station Index 2007 ** Reported by the GfKRoper Public Affairs & Media poll (2007)