“The wizard of Unza” - interview in French magazine Repérages #23, october 2001

  • Up to what point is Super 8 Stories atypical in your career ?
    • Emir Kusturica : It is the first film in my life which I was not aware to make ! This is a parameter really important. On each one of my films, I am ready on the shooting after a long preparation time. This time, I took only moments of the life of the group and the process was almost, as a whole, like the construction of a house. The others pushed me to make a film of it, but I finally had 75 hours of rushes and I was frightened of what that could give. Then it appeared to me that the frame of the documentary could be centred around these nine musicians leaving Belgrade to tour the world and that could lead in nine different stories, where we would discover them individually, parallel to their musical activity. And these new small 7-9 mn films could then be put together to form a whole.
  • This film-making process is rather different from your usual universe ?
    • EK : The formal research, representing the major part of the work, consisted indeed in finding the way of assembling the digital images and the Super 8 documentaries, which were very grainy and sometimes even damaged. They thus had to be improved, which appeared to be very interesting to do. I am thus twice proud of this film because it was not foreseen and it allowed me to use the format I prefer, Super 8, but also the Super 16, the 35 mm, the video… There is not a format of the history of cinema which I did not use for this film ! In same time, I wanted to preserve the emotion, which is the most important to me whatever the film.
  • Did you have in mind examples of musical documentaries ?
    • EK : I have honestly never seen very good ones, because they are done most of the time when the groups are split. We see old guys telling their life and showing photographs, which gives only a summary of life. I wanted to do something which is, on the contrary, registered in a precise contemporaneity. There is however a common point between this film and Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club, in these moments when you see the musicians making other thing than music… and doing it well !
  • Was it difficult to be at the same time in front of and behind the camera ?
    • EK : No, because with this camera, it is especially my own memory that I recorded. That's why it was for me a great honour to make an autobiographical film, a “life documentary”, rather than a fiction for the cinema.
  • Can we really enter the intimacy of a group and restore the intensity of a concert on the screen ?
    • EK : It is not easy. It was a challenge as a director. It was very difficult at the beginning to believe that it could become a film. I think that the experiment of all my previous films, where I had already combined the image and the music, made that possible. But the challenge was precisely in the way of assembling all these elements together.
  • What does the Unza Unza brings from the famous soul of your country ?
    • EK : The No smoking had the vocation to be a punk group but their music evolved with the time, when the country was destroyed and dismantled. Its spirit joins the Balkan rhythms such as those you can hear in the cheap night bars, those with trumpets bands, sort of gypsy mariachis, with at the same time important and constant Western inspiration, the rock'n' roll in particular. Apparently we succeeded in associating all these musics, by preserving their energy, their very specific harmony… and this “electric power” that they require.
  • Do the No smoking represent a proof that Yugoslavia could have functioned as a nation and that the differences could, even after death of Tito, constitute an asset and a cement ?
    • EK : At the time of the events, everyone in the group was sorry… There is in the Balkans incredible problems. Each one wants to preserve his characteristics and nobody wants to follow the common rules. But, concerning art and culture, there remains something of the time of the unit. It is what we do on our level. Even if I do not wish that this country be one day again politically unified.
  • Which of your activities brings you the most pleasure : cinema or music ?
    • EK : I prefer playing on stage… But the greatest satisfaction of my life was to see the finished film and to discover with on the screen that the confrontation of the different destinies from these musicians, since childhood and youth, made reacting people and that its invisible architecture worked out. For that reason, in my opinion, this film is really integrated into my cinema.

Translation Matthieu Dhennin

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