Sabina Vajrača, a Bosnian-American filmmaker, wins the Claims Conference’s Short Film, Large Subject Emerging Filmmaker Contest
The film contest of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) is for emerging directors focused on the Holocaust. This year, the contest received thirty-nine applications from seven countries. Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference, said:
“The Claims Conference is pleased to provide a new generation of filmmakers the opportunity to bring to life the memory and lessons of the Holocaust. We are proud to facilitate the creation of these narratives and documentaries. Film is a critical medium when it comes to telling the story of the Shoah, and it is an incredible opportunity to support these directors as they share their unique lens on this history. This film comes at another pivotal moment in history when we are witnessing the importance of standing up – of not being a bystander.”
The winning film is inspired by a true story of two heroic families: one risked their lives during the Holocaust — the other returned the favor five decades later!
The jury explained that:
“Sabina Vajrača, crafted an exciting narrative inspired by a true story set during two wars in Bosnia.”
Her film, Sevap / Mitzvah, tells the story of a Muslim family that saves their Jewish friends when the Nazis invade Sarajevo only to have them return the favor fifty years later during the Bosnian war. The film is inspired by the story of the Hardagas family, who were Muslim, and the Kavilio family, who were Jews. When the Nazis reached Sarajevo during World War II, the Hardagas family took in the Kavilio family and treated them as their own, risking their lives in the process. For years, they provided support and comfort, even though doing so put them in grave danger. Because of the Hardagas family’s heroism and humanity, the Kavilio family survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel. In 1984, the Kavilio family provided testimony to Yad Vashem, and the Hardagas were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Fast-forward to 1994–50 years later— the Hardagas were in peril as war raged in Sarajevo and Serbs perpetuated their ethnic cleansing campaign. As a result of the Kavilio family’s urgent pleas, the State of Israel intervened and secured safe passage for the Hardagas family to Israel.
The Claims Conference has deployed a campaign to highlight those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, the honor given by Yad Vashem to non-Jews who risked their lives and often the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust. Vajrača’s film and the Hardagas family are featured in the recently launched Claims Conference social media campaign, Don’t Be A Bystander. The Hardagas/Kavilio family story alone has garnered over 1.8 million views, with the overall campaign has received more than 14 million views.
On the announcement of her award, Sabina Vajrača stated:
“May this story inspired by a Muslim family and a Jewish family helping one another survive when wars came to their doorsteps inspire us all to continuously choose good over evil, no matter the circumstances, even if it means crossing religious, political and any other borders we may at times deem insurmountable.”
About the Claims Conference
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Israel, and Germany, secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust. As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2021, the Claims Conference distributed approximately $820 million in direct compensation to over 210,000 survivors in 83 countries and allocated approximately $650 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food, and medicine.
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