Shooting For A Cause

James Brown and Jack Baric in UCLA Bruin gear.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve got a Bruin jersey on. Blah, blah, blah…

It’s bad enough that UCLA broke USC’s streak of five wins in a row and twelve out of thirteen in the annual football game, but here I am in my hometown magazine being forced to wear the uniform of the enemy of my alma mater. But the reason I’m wearing the jersey shows that we’re really not enemies, just friendly rivals that share a city together.

For the past two years, I have worked on A City Divided, a documentary film about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry. The film has served as the catalyst for Rivals United for a Kure, a philanthropic campaign by the non-profit, Kure It to raise funds for innovative cancer research projects at the UCLA and USC medical centers.

The culmination of the campaign was a spectacular red carpet premiere of the film at Club Nokia at L.A. Live where Rivals United hosted a charity dinner and screening of A City Divided. Scores of my San Pedro friends and family attended the event, which made it so much more special for me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Company for organizing a party bus with dozens of San Pedrans sipping on Bruin Blonde and Trojan Red beers for the ride to L.A. Live.

Maybe part of that debt is paid back in James getting to see me wear the Bruin blue of his alma mater in the magazine. James and I made a friendly wager where the loser in a Rivals United fundraising competition between the two of us would have to take a picture in the other team’s jersey.

A cool side note is that I’m wearing the UCLA jersey of San Pedro High grad, Robbie Franco. Robbie was the L.A. City defensive player of the year while a Pirate and a Bruins walk-on before injuries ended his career. (Okay, not that cool a side note. It’s still a Bruins jersey.)

I’m incredibly proud of the film and the campaign, which to date has raised over $250,000 for cancer research. Rivals United will conclude the campaign in December and you can still go to www.rivalsunitedforakure.org to contribute. Next football season, we will again run the charity campaign, with the culmination being the film’s television broadcast and the DVD release.

The same week that A City Divided had its premiere, another amazing moment occurred that was connected to a film of mine.

Searching for a Storm is a documentary I made in 2009 that detailed the 1991-95 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the war crimes case of Croatian general, Ante Gotovina. Gotovina is a hero to Croatians for leading the military operation that liberated their nation at the end of the war. However, Gotovina was later indicted as a war criminal for crimes that were alleged during that same operation.

I set out to make a film that chronicled the war and the story of General Gotovina because I felt his indictment was a grave injustice, motivated by political considerations. In 2011, I, as well as many Croatians around the world, was heartbroken when the international war crimes tribunal found General Gotovina guilty and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

However, on the very same week that A City Divided premiered in Los Angeles, across the globe at The Hague in the Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal overturned General Gotovina’s verdict on appeal, declaring Gotovina was not guilty, and set him free the very same day. The local party here at the Croatian Club in San Pedro was as emotionally an uplifting celebration as I have ever experienced. Everyone felt such great joy that a man who had sacrificed so much in the defense of his nation was able to finally go home.

It was an amazing ending to a great and proud week for me. I am so thankful that I’m able to make films for causes that I believe in. On that note, the next project I am shooting will honor all the various workers on our waterfront, from longshoremen to fishermen, to marine research divers, and more. American Waterfront, made in partnership with PBS SoCal, will showcase the importance of the port to the nation’s economy and how vital it is for our community to keep the great middle-class jobs that are available on the waterfront. Look for the film on PBS around Labor Day 2013. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com