Family & Companions
Widely regarded as one of the most innovative filmmakers of his generation, Emir Kusturica twice won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or before the age of 40, and, film for film, it is difficult to think of a more consistently lauded artist than this Bosnian-born director. Possessing the persona of a rock star (he once played bass in the agit-rock band No Smoking and still makes guest appearances with them), he is the antithesis of the Hollywood director, viewing the world as a naif or a dreamer and only helming projects that move him strongly. Though the commerce of movies remains foreign to Kusturica, the opportunity to make a visual statement still drives his work. No fan of the close-up, he always tries to connect one person with what is going on in the midground and background (much like John Frankenheimer), and he has successfully worked with non-actors in the tradition of Italian neo-realism (e.g., Roberto Rossellini). As a result of his unpopular stand regarding the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, however, he finds himself scorned in his own land, literally a director without a country.
While studying under Jiri Menzel at Prague's FAMU, Kusturica met Vilko Filac, his cinematographer of choice on all his films through "Underground" (1995). On the strength of his award-winning diploma film, "Guernica" (1976), he entered TV and helmed two critically-acclaimed movies ("The Brides Are Coming" 1978 and "Buffet Titanic" 1979) before making an auspicious feature debut with "Do You Remember Dolly Bell?" (1981), a coming-of-age story set in Sarajevo in the early 1960s, which won the Golden Lion for best first film at the Venice Film Festival. "When Father Was Away on Business" (1985) was an absorbing portrait of provincial life and politics in 50s Yugoslavia, partially seen through the eyes of a six-year-old child and confirmed Kusturica as an international director of note, earning such prizes as the Palme d'Or at Cannes, five Golden Arena awards (the Yugoslavian equivalent of the Oscar) and an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign-Language Film.
"Time of the Gypsies" (1988) was his first film that did not contain a single frame shot in his beloved Sarajevo. Inspired by a newspaper article about the inter-European trade in young gypsy children, it employed an elliptical, fantastic style influenced by Latin American "magical realism" (i.e., Jorge Luis Borges) and featured non-professional, gypsy actors delivering most of their dialogue in Romany (a language the director barely understood). "Gypsies" brought further critical acclaim earning the Best Director award at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. Kusturica then embarked on his first English-language film, "Arizona Dream" (1991), starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Jerry Lewis. Boasting exceptional performances--one of Dunaway's best in years and one of Lewis' most impressive--the film ran into difficulty finding a US distributor and eventually debuted in theaters (albeit briefly) in 1995.
Kusturica collected his second Palme d'Or, as well as his best American reviews to that time, for "Underground," a film lamenting the death of Yugoslavia and spanning 50 years from the German invasion to the civil war. It also earned him the enmity of his fellow Bosnians. Opening with the ironic but undeniably nostalgic title "Once upon a time there was a country, and its capital was Belgrade," it featured Serb protagonists, causing some to view it as an apologia for Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic's vision of a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia made at a time when a true Bosnian should have been documenting Serbian atrocities against his countrymen. Kusturica's reaction to the criticism was to abandon filmmaking, but he later rescinded his retirement, eventually directing "Black Cat, White Cat" (1998), in which he returned to his passion for gypsy culture. Containing hardly a hint of politics, this prodigiously well-made, frenetic mixture of slapstick and folklore is Kusturica's funniest film yet, brimming with colorful, larger-than-life characters portrayed by a cast that once again included many non-professionals.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Cinematography (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Directed student film, "Guernica"
First TV-movie, "The Brides Are Coming"
Feature directorial debut "Do You Remember Dolly Bell?"; also co-scripted with Muslim poet Abdulah Sidran
"When Father Was Away on Business" (scripted by Sidran) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival
Co-scripted (with Mladen Mareric) Zlatco Lavanic's "The Magpie Strategy"
Began teaching film directing at Columbia University
Composer Goran Bregovic provided haunting music for "Time of the Gypsies"; co-scripted with Gordon Mihic
Bregovic-Iggy Pop songs were a distinctive feature of his English-language film "Arizona Dream", starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Jerry Lewis
Won second Palme d'Or for controversial "Underground"; third and last collaboration with Bregovic
Announced retirement from filmmaking in December
Rescinded retirement; announced he would return to filmmaking in spring 1997 with a comedy to star French actor Daniel Auteil; project eventually abandoned
Helmed "Black Cat, White Cat", once again expressing his passion for gypsy culture; reteamed with screenwriter Gordon Mihic
Signed to make feature acting debut in Patrice Leconte's "La Veuve de St. Pierre" opposite Juliette Binoche
Cast in the comedy feature "The Good Thief"