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Lea and Darija

(Lea i Darija)
Croatia 2011. Dir: Branko Ivanda. 101 min. DCP

The magical world of musical theatre is invaded by the terrible realities of war in veteran filmmaker Branko Ivanda’s captivating and polished Croatian drama, based on the true story of two 13-year-olds who were stars of the stage in late-1930s Zagreb. Lea Deutsch (Klara Naka), a young Jewish girl known as the “Croatian Shirley Temple,” and Darija Gasteiger (Tamy Zajec), an ethnic German who was her friend, rival, and dancing partner, were headliners in the “Children’s Realm” of the Croatian National Theatre. The two gained fame across Europe for their irresistible talents. Their popularity provides only so much protection with the coming of war and Nazi domination, which tests the girls’ friendship and sees them resorting to ever-more desperate measures in order to survive.