All my efforts, directed politely for more than eleven months, to reach the executives of GK Films, Ms. Angelina Jolie, her attorneys, and her agents in order to discuss potential infringement of the copyrights to my novel The Soul Shattering, published in 2007, did not elicit a single response. I do believe that Ms. Jolie used (copied, stole) crucial elements of my book in writing the screenplay for the movie first known as “Untitled Love Story” and finally unimaginatively titled In the Land of Blood and Honey.
This was obviously taken from Martin Van Creveld’s The Land of Blood and Honey. Ms. Jolie played a little with the words and added an “In,” just as she played with my novel by dissecting and reducing it into a banal love story that would be impossible during the war, especially in concentration camps. The story is absurd and shows Ms. Jolie’s complete lack of knowledge of Bosnia-Herzegovina (and Croatia), particularly during the brutal Serbian aggression that started in 1990 and lasted for almost 6 years.
In many ways Ms. Jolie is trying to ingratiate herself with the peoples living in Bosnia – peoples who never lived in “honey”, but throughout the history remember “blood” only. All the conquerors, including the former Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbia, devastated the region in their recent genocidal invasion. History and reality contradicts those, including Ms. Jolie, who try to say the opposite. This is the reason why women from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who suffered most during the war, protested against the filming of this movie, especially the women of the women’s group “Srebrenica Women War Victims”.
My futile attempts to establish contacts with Ms. Jolie’s group, including a trip to the movie set in Budapest, provoked the “anger of a Sarajevan” (also the title of my documentary, the first movie about the war in the region). Their attitude towards me and my work equaled the anger I felt when the Serbian aggressors in 1992 started the assault and destruction of my Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Their certainty that coming from a small country and having no money and energy, I would not be able to protect my copyrights against the “great” Angelina Jolie, a humanitarian applauded by the whole world for her good deeds, forced me to bring this matter to the attention of the world. The website www.thesoulshattering.net is one of the main instruments in this fight.
I got the idea for the novel and wrote the manuscript about 20 years ago. The novel The Soul Shattering tells the unique story of the rescue of a woman, a Croatian-Bosnian named Mirna, from the Serbian-controlled concentration camp near Sarajevo by a deputy commander of the camp, a Montenegrin, Ljuban, whose father is a Serb-Yugoslav nationalist, a high-ranking officer of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, and a close friend of the war criminal Radovan Karadzic. This is a story about love, respect, sacrifice, and hope versus hatred, murder, torture, organized rape, and evil.
This singular story has not been described in any movie or literary work except in my novel The Soul Shattering, written and published in 2007. This is a real story with no precedent. A high-ranking soldier rescued the victim and was killed by his own people, even though his father was such an important figure. He was obviously a man of high moral principles who decided to sacrifice his own life to save the lives of Mirna and her family.
This is the only story of its kind, although I heard thousands of stories during the war, as I was in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the time. I learned about this case in 1992 at a time when the world had not even known or heard about the camps and the Serb atrocities. Knowing all of this, the fact that Ms. Jolie tells an almost identical story in her first movie is both intriguing and inexplicable.
The novel got the endorsement from the Ministry of Culture of three countries: Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has never happened before.
In 1995 the synopsis of my novel was sent to numerous publishers: Avon Books, Janus Publishing, Virgin, Penguin etc. I received an offer to publish, but I turned it down because of personal reasons. During 2005 and 2006, while preparing publication of the book in Croatia, I sent the novel, the synopsis, and related ideas by mail and e-mails to hundreds of addresses (publishers and movie producers) and, therefore, many people knew about them.
I was happy to hear that Ms. Jolie was coming to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo in April of 2010. I was hoping she would help the suffering people, especially the women who were tortured and raped during the war. However, two months later, in June 2010 (I was surprised by her urgency and speed of creativity), she decided to make a movie with the Bosnian war theme, precisely about concentration camps and with the same unique story as mine. Being a film director myself, I was surprised that she was able to make a script for such a difficult and complex plot in just two short months. I had succeeded in doing it only after reflecting about it for many years and having lived through the war. There are thousands of stories about this terrible war, so in the beginning I did not pay attention to Ms. Jolie’s story. However, after hearing the statements from Rade Serbedzija and other actors, I started to see similarities between her script and my book.
I was surprised that, while a raped woman got a secondary role and died, Ms. Jolie chose a Serbian war criminal and his father, also a war criminal (played by Rade Serbedzija, a well-known neoyugoslav and pro-Serb ), as the main characters, thereby indirectly endorsing the war crimes committed in the region. A strange coincidence with my novel!
After the public protest by the women from the “Women War Victims” organization from Srebrenica and its President Mrs. Bakira Hasecic, the ban on shooting the film in Sarajevo, and its lifting by the Federal Ministry of Culture of Bosnia-Herzegovina, I became even more suspicious of Ms. Jolie’s intentions. Did she take her revenge on Sarajevo and the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina by moving the set to Budapest?
Her movie is nothing else but my novel The Soul Shattering revised and filtered. The novel was published in 2007, as mentioned earlier. I received a synopsis of the movie script of Ms. Jolie’s movie, only a few sentences long, as a mere formality that had to be followed, which I as a director find disrespectful and shameful. It shows the attitude of Ms. Jolie and the movie producers towards Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I contacted Mrs. Bakira Hasecic, the President of the Srebrenica organization, who sent me an e-mail expressing her outrage.
In addressing the media, the film crew members, producers, Ms. Jolie, and actors gave contradictory versions of the movie, referring to it sometimes as a true story and sometimes as fiction. Ms. Jolie eventually confirmed in an interview to a Hungarian weekly that it is a story about a rescue from a camp. Her story is almost identical to my novel The Soul Shattering. How could that be so?
The main characters in my novel are, understandably, a raped and tortured woman, Bosnian-Croatian Mirna, and her rescuer, a Montenegrin named Ljuban, the camp deputy commander who was killed by the Serb soldiers and Chetniks, his fellow fighters, for his brave and humane act. Compromising this unique factual trustworthiness, Ms. Jolie changed this relation into one between a Muslim and a Serb. She may have done it under the influence of certain groups or lobbies, or maybe she, the public, and the film industry are not interested in having a Croat and a Montenegrin as main characters (even though that’s what happened in real life). This historic inaccuracy is the gist of her movie and makes it too prejudicial, biased, and Pro-Serbian in many aspects. Furthermore, the hero in Ms. Jolie’s “love story” is a Serb, a murderer, and a war criminal who surrenders after killing the woman he supposedly loved and rescued! He becomes a Shakespearean-like character, while the raped, humiliated, and heroic woman remains inferior to him. A question from recent history: Has any war criminal (particularly the Serbians) ever surrendered and shown repentance? The answer is NO. Therefore, Ms. Jolie alters history. The Hague War Tribunal, with all its faults, contradicted Ms. Jolie and her story by capturing Karadzic, Mladic, and Hadzic.
Out of thousands of stories about the camps, Ms. Jolie’s movie has the same basis as my novel. It is in no way a coincidence, as I mentioned before. I am not even interested in finding out how she got a hold of the translation to my novel (which was not too difficult).
After all the publicity and controversy about the movie shooting, Ms. Jolie confirmed in her statement to the Hungarian weekly “Vasamapi Hirek” that she had thought of the idea prior to her arrival to Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina while sick and reading and watching movies.
She got the inspiration from somebody else’s idea and the book. Her idea is nothing but a doctored version of my novel, and not only that! Well before she visited the women in Sarajevo, whose stories she did not even hear, she knew she was going to make this film because she must have had and read the English translation of my novel. This visit must have served as a cover-up for the fact that she already knew what the basis of the movie was going to be.
Not only there are general similarities, but too many details match in my novel The Soul Shattering and her “love” movie. A very important detail is that the heroine of my novel reveals the concentration camp and Serbian forces location to the Bosnian Army, while in Ms. Jolie’s mutated film, her “love” kills her because of that. The plot of the movie is the twisted plot of my novel. Is it a coincidence or intentional? I pose this question to the moviegoers, the general public, Angelina Jolie, her producers, and those who are close to her.
Long ago, I got the idea to create the “Bridge of Love,” for among Sarajevo, Vukovar, Srebrenica, and New Orleans. My wish was to donate the proceeds of my book to financing the construction of housing, with about 10 houses in each city. I publicly promoted the idea through the media and even offered it to Ms. Oprah Winfey’s “Angels Network” and Ms. Jolie’s humanitarian organization “Make It Right”. The ladies did not find the idea good and humane enough! And now, the icing on the cake: After I promoted the idea in vain for about ten years, Ms. Jolie announced that she would build, with the help of UNHCR, 14 houses in Rogatica in the “Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina" – the para-state created by brutal ethnic cleansing and slaughters known all over the world, whose existence is the mortal wound to the survival of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The entire phony world (democratic and fair?) does not condemn this para-state, which also threatens southeastern Europe as a whole, but tolerates and protects it. With Ms. Jolie’s involvement, the evil is even elevated to a cultural and humanitarian level.
My idea was to connect the whole world, but Ms. Jolie is a humanitarian and benefactor, while I, Josip Knezevic, aka James J. Braddock, a Sarajevo man, am nobody whose name is not important and says nothing.
I wanted to donate my novel The Soul Shattering to Angelina Jolie and her husband to boost “The Bridge of Love” project. I wanted to connect continents, cities, and people of different colors. I would have lobbied to pursue the nomination of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Ms. Jolie.
I am convinced that I am right. I want to assert my rights in court and in public. I request a full satisfaction and an apology from Ms. Jolie and her associates for all the suffering inflicted on me, as if I were in the war again in my besieged Sarajevo in 1992.
Therefore, legal action will be taken in the USA to seek protection of my copyrights. The request will be made to ban the movie distribution until my rights are satisfied.
This is my story, my agony that I have been going through for more than 11 months. Ms. Jolie and her team probably think that I am completely irrelevant. But I am not. I am somebody! Just as I was in 1992, when the world did not even hear about Angelina Jolie, but I shed my blood (together with my fellow countrymen) for my city and my country. I lost all material possessions, my family, and my joy, and the question is why? Did I do it to make it possible for people like Ms. Jolie to come and visit my free and peaceful native city? Did I do it to make it possible for Ms. Jolie to receive the “honorary heart medal” from this tortured and wonderful city, while she at the same time participating in the destruction of everything that was born out of my and Sarajevo’s suffering; suffering of numerous women like my heroine Mirna and their families – the innocent victims of the inhuman destruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina - to whose memory my novel is dedicated? I don’t think so.
ZAGREB - CROATIA - 2011