Interview in French newspaper Le Monde, 11 may 2005

Double Golden Palm winner, violently challenged for his commitment in favour of the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milošević during the war of Bosnia, Emir Kusturica is also a rock star. After a concert at the Zenith in Paris on April 21, he took the train the following day for Strasbourg, where he was going to give another concert. It is there, during the trip, that we interviewed him, after having let him sleep in a first class coach, during the first two hours. Hairy, not shaved, the future president of the jury of the Cannes Film Festival lent himself willingly to the questions & answers game.

  • What kind of jury president are you going to be?
    • Emir Kusturica : I’m already very happy. Great authors are in competition. If, moreover, the selection gives us the desire to reward unknown directors, it would be truly a splendid festival! Today, the cinema is either very commercial, or very specific. I would be very happy if the jury managed to find the best combination between the two.
  • You often stood against commercial cinema. Does the fact that there is a Hollywood film in competition obstruct annoys you ?
    • EK : Not at all. From Lubitsch to Capra and John Ford, Hollywood has produced some of the authors who counted the most in my education. I don’t protest against Hollywood in itself, but against this world which prevents from thinking, from feeling things, which seeks to impress with technology, by betting all on marketing, while being interested only in profitability.
  • You once said you were born several times, among which once in Cannes. You certainly wanted to speak about the year of When father was away on business
    • EK : Yes. During the period of Communism and Bolshevism in our countries, Cannes was the only door on which we could knock. And if it opened, it brought an immense echo. I would have never thought that When father was away on business could win anything. I understood gradually, by considering the films I liked which had received the Palm, the Ballade of Narayama, Yol, Paris Texas… They all combine a concern of the audience and a courageous trip in cinematographic aesthetics. It’s also what characterizes my films.
  • You didn’t stay to receive the Golden Palm…
    • EK : I had left after the projection my film. I didn’t think of deserving such a recognition, and I was too narcissistic to come back without being sure to receive something. But this success marked my life.
  • How ?
    • EK : In the way of being privileged. Obviously, that involves also a great responsibility, and great sufferings, even moments of depression. When you start so high, you can’t be satisfied then if you make small steps.
  • Each time you went in competition, were you in the same state of mind?
    • EK : After When father was away on business, I would have been almost depressed if Time of the Gypsies, which won the Best Director prize, had not received anything. As I never made films so that they become big success, Cannes is the standard for measuring my work. From one film to another also, the historical and political context changed. At the time, Communism still formed a system on a planetary scale, and my first film was perceived as very political. Ten years after, in 1995, Communism had broken down and I made Underground. I approached in it, from the point of view of somebody who comes out of it, without ideology, the question of the destruction of my country. And in Cannes, I am the victim of the plot! An alliance between the Bosnian intellectuals, the French press and some French who take Bosnia for an intellectual safari! Fortunately, the jury was not influenced, and I received the Palm.
  • In When father was away on business, your political matter was correct. With Underground, you become incorrect.
    • EK : These concepts of politically correct and incorrect frighten me a lot. Is the new pope politically correct ? It seems to me that yes. But if he is, I don’t see why, me, I would be incorrect. Maybe, in fact, what is politically incorrect is what is opposed to the interests of multinational companies… Between When father was away on business (1985) and Underground (1995), I experimented a lot. I improved my style. That's what counts.
  • You were attacked for your standpoint, not only for your films.
    • EK : When you express yourself publicly on politics, you are likely to be attacked. And nobody grants you the right to change opinion. Anyway, you can’t attack a film just because you disagree with the political positions of his author. Here is my declaration: my position on the war in Yugoslavia was very close to the one two eminent people, as opposite as possible politically: Noam Chomski and Henry Kissinger. I never became nationalist. I was against the destruction of my country; this was my only political position. I thought that while becoming small we were going to lose any form of power and identity. This was my political culpability.
  • How do you live the fact of being attacked publicly by your friends of youth ?
    • EK : During the destruction process of my country I also found my roots. I discovered that a part of my family was of Serb origin. I don’t have a problem with that. But my former friends do. They needed that I become the propaganda tool for the new country.
  • Did your pro-Serb positions slow down your career ?
    • EK : No. I survived because I had my own aesthetics. I was lucky too. I was always in the magnetic field of people who found my cinema special and exciting and I was never asked that each dollar shows a profit. Probably because of all the Golden Palms, Golden Lion, Bear, etc.
  • Do you think there is a form of elitism in your films ?
    • EK : Yes, because, today, it’s a luxury to integrate aesthetics into the cinema: the cinema is manufactured to serve the aims of the market; it doesn’t respect time nor space. The problem, when, like me, you come from a small country on the cultural map, is that you can make one film or two. But then, it becomes too much. It’s twenty-two years that I make some, and I think that my style has affected the cinema. It became a pattern, quoted in example, retaken by others.

Interview by Jean-Luc Douin and Isabelle Regnier, translated by Matthieu Dhennin

en/itv_05-05-11_le_monde.txt · Last modified: 2007/03/18 19:23 by matthieu1