“Even on a boat, I sail against the winds” - interview in Glas Javnosti, 28 February 2001

Emir Kusturica, the director, between Yugoslavia and France, between movie by way of art and amusement, between destiny and history

I have often been doing things that are making my life difficult. Since Serbia is changing, it always needs to join congratulations that are coming from all over the world. I am not some Holbruk to intervene between two presidents

  • After many years, you have started to talk for domestic media. Why were you rejecting us?
    • Emir Kusturica : It looks like, giving the interviews is more and more becoming like making dossiers of certain persons. Even when they are given unselfish and honestly, they are taken as political attitude. At best case, stories about public persons have fantastic number of mistakes, like in the case of the text “Who is this man” in “Glas javnosti”. That is why I thought it is better to abstain. On the other hand, all of that could be used against the man who is giving the interview, which was confirmed as a very true thing in my case. Interviews and statements could be outermost unpleasant for a man who thinks, and I consider myself being that one. That is, maybe, a mistake.
      Since my beginnings of directing, in 1981, I was constantly interceding on the same things. I wanted to know, which flag is mine, which Olympic team that wins… I was often mentioning that emotional luggage of mine and I didn't want to loose it. But, that was turned into something, that was a little bit necessary to everyone in the moment of Yugoslavia disintegration.
  • Which is the Football club that you are supporting now ?
    • EK : I am not interested in Football anymore. As I am getting older and my joints started to hurt, I went on more noble sports, like swimming.
  • You told me that your new movie Super 8 Stories is announcing your new beginning.
    • EK : I was surprised with that, too. I think there is a new way of showing feelings, in this part of Judeo-Christian civilisation that we belong to, specially in the West. I was surprised that this film made possible for me to find again the amateur way, it is getting the most precious for me in art, in every respect. The new technology made that there is only a small number of people left, who are looking forward to movie in a boyish way.
      This time, private recordings in “super 8”, writings from the travellings and concerts of he No Smoking Orchestra are connected so that the ugly, Hollywood photography with gloss, that many people are aspirating to, in Yugoslavia also, is eliminated. I was spoiling that kind of photography in this movie, and I was trying to make better the old one. And, that contrast editing seemed very exciting to me, in the end.
  • Was “the gloss” the reason why you gave up shooting of “The White Hotel” and “The autumn of the Patriarch” ?
    • EK : I have a damned idea that art shouldn't go from general to general things. There are films that are able to do that, but I can't. When it was decided, a story of a tyrant from Caribbean islands, who would be played by Marlon Brando, and dressed in clothes inherited from Spanish conquerors, to speak English, I cooled down from the project.
      These are things I don't understand, and, my initial idea must be respected, my excitement with things that I am doing, so that I could do it with quality. And, the story regarding “The White Hotel” was also paradoxical. In that movie, that was supposed to be a very expensive one, Dusko Kovačević and I were insisting on narrative, and the producers on fantastic terms.
  • What is your status like in the world of film, in this moment? Has the fact that you were acting in The widow of Saint-Pierre changed anything ?
    • EK : My status is always the same. It is the status of a man who, more or less, lives isolated. With every movie of mine, I had to make something I previously had, because I am not a member of anything : the status of a film director who succeeded to survive in the tight market of movie, and who still believes that film, in a certain way, is able to be art, and amusement, too. It is kept in my movies in a good way.
      I am a director who, from one side, takes care of film as art, and from the other side, goes into every cinema and succeeds to amuse the audience from Korea to all countries in Europe, even to limited northern-American market, in a nice extent. Since I don't participate in the public life of France and don't appear where powerful and rich people are, it is the most correct to say that I stayed in Yugoslavia with one foot, and in France with the other.
  • And where is your home ?
    • EK : My home is in my movies and in the places where I am playing music. There are the things like, the cultural context where you had grown up, that you cannot renounce easily, and, on the other hand, there are some practical things that are making man change and adapt.
  • There were many comments here about your meeting with the president Koštunica ?
    • EK : It is very interesting how a civilized act, that is normal everywhere in the world, stirs up the people and makes the opposite effect instead of normal reaction, in this country.
  • That meeting got different meaning with the fact it was announced from the president's cabinet, that you are more important to him than Carla del Ponte is ?
    • EK : It is wit that can only make a pleasure to me. Since Serbia is changing, it always needs to join congratulations from all over the world. In fact, the problem was made by those who president Koštunica haven't invited, those who were expecting to be invited, and who don't have a place in his system of values. They are making noise and turning their discontent into a mild cheap politics. There was nothing political in that meeting.
  • Are they the ones who claim your visit to the ex-president has cost this country four million marks, and who are wondering, how much will your visit to the new president cost ?
    • EK : They are those unlucky persons from Tito's period who are trying through all their life to catch those four million marks, and cannot succeed to catch them.
  • After Koštunica was chosen for the president, there were stories that a whole Gipsy village voted for him because they thought it was you. Have you mentioned that fact or anecdote at the president's cabinet ?
    • EK : It is a wit anecdote, but I noticed, and I like it very much, what new administration in Belgrade is doing, and that is big respect towards minorities, it was shown even on the level of gesture. Respect towards Gypsies in the state level is not so often in Europe. While Gypsies have been burnt down in some countries, there is a man in Yugoslavia who goes by his private car on a Gipsy party.
  • I know you answer political questions reluctantly, but there is one more question that is in public circulation, that brings your meeting with president Koštunica into a context of mediating in communication with president Djukanović ?
    • EK : My intention has always been to do something if I can. But, the public people who sometimes have need to participate in the public courses, have very few possibilities to make an influence. I would be the happiest person, if all processes that are happening here would become less and less crucial and historical, and more and more normal. In that context, the story of mediating between two presidents is senseless.
      I am not some Holbruk or someone who has that power. The most I can do is to express my feeling and my opinion, and even when I express that it is distorted. I am more and more sure, all I can do is to make films and working in the area of culture.
  • It was announced here your donation for retarded children, what has happened with it ?
    • EK : It is already done, but there was a mistake, so the donation was announced as mine, and it is mine and The No Smoking Orchestra's.
  • In public, no matter if they are praising or blaming you, people often say your sentence that all that you do, you do it because you wish to be loved.
    • EK : It is not my sentence, it is Marques' sentence. Marques has told me, when we met two years ago, that he would give anything to be as old as I was then.
  • You were 44 years old then ?
    • EK : Yes. He told me then that the idea of art could be interpreted in thousands ways, and one of them is the idea of love, which I recognized as something calming. I could say I was a maker of excitement, I have done everything to make life prettier with art, but privately, I didn't have peace. I was lucky to be recognized in the World, but I have done everything to demythologize the picture of me in the same time. In my last movie Super 8 Stories maybe even to the end.
  • So, you were doing it not to be loved ?
    • EK : I have often been doing things that are making my life difficult. Even when I am on the ship, I like to sail upwind, it is not a vice or a virtue, it is simply a characteristic.
  • The next movie “The Nose”. There is mentioned in the report from the Berlin festival, that you were answering all the questions, even the political ones, but you didn't want to say anything about your new movie you are working on with Dušan Kovačević.
    • EK : There are 80 percent of misinformation, and only 20 percent of truth, like everywhere around me. That movie is not called “Silence, I f… your mother” like it was written in our press, it is simply called “The Nose”. It is a movie that Dusko Kovačević and I have been preparing for a year and a half, and that is, actually, written on the basis of his drama “Lari Tompson”.
      It would suppose to tell a New York story, in a very exciting way for me, that has all elements of surrealistic, that Dusko is fostering in his dramas and which I tried to make with him in the earlier movies. “The Nose” is supposed to be a story of an actor who is involved in Mafia works, and one night, when he was supposed to play Cyrano in a New York theatre, instead on the stage, where the audience, desirous of a premiere, is waiting for him, goes to threaten to Mafia men in the costume of Cyrano. This is the continuation of what I have been started to do long time ago : it is a conflict of fiction and reality in the scope of film. That is a extremely exciting project I should start to do in the end of the year.
  • Who is going to play in the movie ?
    • EK : I only know by now that one role is going to be played by Miki Manojlović. I should find the rest of them.
  • How much will it cost ?
    • EK : I don't know. It's going to be a middle budget film, anyway.
  • Is it to be shot here ?
    • EK : No, it will be done in Greece or Canada.

Translation by Jelena and Matthieu Dhennin

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