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Just weeks before Angelina Jolie is scheduled to release her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, the actress/filmmaker has been sued by Croatian journalist James Braddock, who claims the forthcoming movie about a love affair during the Bosnian Civil War violates his copyright on a book, The Soul Shattering.
Braddock is demanding statutory damages plus an injunction against the film’s release.
Jolie is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and she certainly travels far and wide promoting humanitarian causes, but what is the likelihood she had seen Braddock’s original book, which was published in Croatian in 2007? According to Braddock’s lawsuit, the key figure might be an individual named Edin Sarkic, a co-defendant in the lawsuit who served as one of the film’s producers and has been credited in the press with helping Jolie attain the necessary permits to film in Sarajevo.
Braddock claims that after publishing his book in 2007, he traveled to Sarajevo to promote his work and create awareness for Bosnian war victims. There, he says he was allegedly approached by Sarkic, who told Braddock that he read The Soul Shattering and wanted to meet to discuss the book in further detail. Braddock and Sarkic allegedly met three more times in 2008 to discuss details about the book, “including plot and character development and the story’s cultural significance and historical accuracy.”
The discussions are said to have evolved into the possibility of creating a film adaptation of the book. The two kept in touch over telephone and text messages over the next two years. Braddock also says he e-mailed an individual at one of Jolie’s charities to propose a collaboration on a project to build villages across Sarajevo and New Orleans.
Then, Braddock says he learned of Jolie’s movie. He details some of the similarities, including the backdrop of war-torn Bosnia and Herzogovina in the early 1990s, a main female character who is captured and imprisoned and raped by soldiers, and a Serbian camp commander who falls in love with the woman and helps her escape.
It’ll be up to a judge to determine whether the claimed “obvious” similarities meet the high threshold needed to prove copyright infringement. Braddock’s lawyer, Kelly Saindon, will have to demonstrate substantial similarity in expression, not merely the use of unprotectable ideas. Besides Jolie and Sarkic, the other defendants are GK Films, FilmDistrict, and Scout Film. The film is scheduled to be released on December 23.
Here’s the complaint:
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