Interview in NIN - 28 december 2006

This man is respected in Cannes and in the villages around Mokra Gora, he chooses ordinary people for his films, and with the same passion he refuses stars and major European actors. Emir has a long list of enemies in the so-called “elitist society” of Belgrade. It is dangerous for those who do not think that we can rally the Serbian tradition with European concepts. He breaks all theories. The director has just completed a ski area on the Iver, a film entitled Promise me this, and an opera with Dr. Nele Karajlić on Time of the Gypsies. And he will go to the Cannes festival this year …

  • Can you describe your new movie, and compare it to the previous ones?
    • Emir Kusturica : I loved this job more than ever before. It was really happiness! In fact, the story is rather simple. A village is about to be destroyed, in every sense of the word. A grandfather asks his little son to sell an icon, to go to the city and to find a woman. En route, the child will go through a lot of hardships, he will lose his morality, and will have to fight for his life. Morality goes to hell in this journey, and that's the current situation. We are very far from Enzesberger's theory that social revolts in Europe are part of our life. I think something different is happening. We accept from Europe everything that is bad. I'm afraid it will not happen like that here, and we'll have big problems getting out of it.
  • If I understand correctly, the film is about the conflict between the big city and the village. People here think that if we win the battle of traditions, we will be closer to Europe. Is this the message of your movie?
    • EK : If we put a spotlight on Serbia and its agriculture, we think that Europe means improving techniques and yields and reducing facilities. The transition is neither more nor less than taking the fruit of the toiling masses. Today, progress means taking everything we can from small people, so we tend towards totalitarianism. Democracy in Serbia is like an old horse, brought by servants, and this democracy takes everything from the people. This democracy matters everything, the look, the fashion, and the employees of Non Governmental Organizations who have big mouths and who clap their fists on the table to scare us. Talking about heroes and good people is easy when you have the Pentagon behind you. I have to tell an anecdote about Zuko Dzumhur when he was in Afghanistan and asked who he was, “Muslim tourist,” he replied. So here, people say he is “Serbian and globalist”. Except that we can not be both at the same time.
  • Don't you think that those you mention do not just want for their land, milk and meat?
    • EK : Do not worry. Importers of genetically modified foods will eventually close these establishments, and they will leave. I know a man here who realized himself a hydroelectic power station. Some French people have shown interest in the project, but he wants to stay in Serbia. We are great consumers. As Naomi Klein put it: “buy everything for sale, but do not ask any questions”. Do not misunderstand me, I just want to fight to preserve our cultural identity.
  • As a respected artist in Europe and around the world, I have to ask you how do you feel about Mokra Gora?
    • EK : My dreams are my movies, my life is my music. I had the project to make a ski area, and I did it. I had plans to improve the roads here, and I did it too. My project is to make Mecavnik part of the old villages, and I am about to realize it. My new idea is the Opera “The time of the Gypsies”. I take the risk of becoming the advocate of the Serbian peasants here, but at the same time, I have a vision a little negative. Every peasant likes to unload his garbage cans over the neighbor's fence, and the bins pile up. So the neighbor has to take care of the trash and put the trash where they need to go. I do this, and I try to teach others to respect the ecology. People like to build houses without permission, but we do not do that in Mokra Gora.
  • For this new film, you have built a new village, saying it was a kind of mission for you. Do you intend to build other villages?
    • EK : Well, I had the idea to make the ski area, and I did it. We were told about powerful ski lifts for winter sports tourism. This place is improving every year. As if a war had destroyed everything I had done. I read some incredible stories in one of Ivo Andrić's stories about a tennis court built by Austrian soldiers in Višegrad. History teaches us that it is impossible to make long-term plans. Once the tennis court is over, the story goes faster, and the Austrian army leaves, another army arrives, and the ground is abandoned. The river rises, covers it with mud to the net, and leaves it impassable. In Serbia, it is very difficult to plan for the future. The fact that Bulgaria and Romania are already in Europe is not fair. What they did and we did not, I have no idea. And how they got into the U.E., I wonder. The village is an adventure, like my previous films. A man who has no good reason will never build a ski area. First, we will wonder how much it costs, and how much it costs. But I have a vision of the idealistic and utopian world, and it is these ideas that guide my life.
  • Cinema in Serbia is dying, kneeling. Your movies will have a life of a few weeks on the big screens, while your village will remain forever. Is that why you became an architect?
    • EK : I am an internationalist in every sense of the word. The public in Argentina is just as important to me as the people here. My first film received an award in Venice, and after that, became popular in Sarajevo. What changed ? Life is a miracle has made almost 700,000 entries in France, and here the film industry is ruined. Good example of the situation today, because the movies here work for Hollywood and blockbusters. That's why our movies do not make money! My goal is internationalism. I am both a globalist and an alter-mondialist, because I do not like the idea of ​​destroying my culture and vetoing my art. I do not like those idiots who repeat that I am the main problem of the Serbian cinema of the last fifteen years1). They do not understand that local films will not stay for more than a few days on European screens and that people will quickly forget them. French films have millions of spectators, but they have maintained this culture for over fifty years!
  • You often criticize the west, but they are the ones who finance your projects. How do you reconcile that?
    • EK : I can be anti-globalization and love Maradona, it's not impossible. On this planet, there are about twenty major directors and knows nothing about them, because we do not see this kind of films on the screens. If you do not leave Serbia, you will never know that they exist. I'm lucky because I live in a world where “culture” does not rhyme with “shock”, and that the idea of ​​art is still alive. My problem is not so much Hollywood, and the “global dragon”, but rather to understand why our culture is losing its place in Serbia. I do not think Hollywood will ask intelligent questions after this stupid war. When you watch the movies, you see explosions every ten seconds, and Bruce Lees who fight against villains, bombs, shots, fire, pistols, more explosions, the war on terrorists …
  • Do you have disagreements with Europe?
    • EK : My films have never been more censored than in recent years.
  • But on the other hand, how did Michael Moore win the gold palm?
    • EK : The world is under pressure. The war in Palestine, Iraq. The films help this horrible industry and the big corporations that make totalitarianism. Hollywood movies are the measure of stupidity. This concept is also valid here, but unfortunately it will bury the Serbian cinema. Someone with money can buy a movie ticket. We must then count how much he spends in popcorn and coca-cola. People who steal, who die, who shoot, who drops bombs, all this makes no sense. The film ends and you say that the time has passed too fast. As he ate genetically modified food, he said it was not bad. The ruin of the film industry began when Life is a miracle came out in theaters, and today only Zdravko Sotra2) can make people go to the movies. He sold nearly 700,000-800,000 tickets. But honestly, his films are more like New Year TV movies than art. His films have only one message: “we are not gypsies”. The Minister of Culture should take money from Hollywood blockbuster and give it to our directors. To fight against Hollywood is useless, say the Serbian intellectuals. They say that we live in mythology, and that we must deny it. Hollywood is a generator of mythology, and we pay for it with our blood. I do not have the illusion that we will win, but I have the privilege of having my own world of images, sounds and architecture, and I share it with people who have the same thoughts , without a loyalty card.
  • Who are your allies?
    • EK : Jarmush, Kaurismaki, somehow Almodovar, Kitano, Loach, and about fifty directors. If I compare with France and Poland, realism and neo-realism, they are not as important as they were, and they are not as brilliant as Fellini or Visconti, but they make fantastic movies.
  • And in Serbia?
    • EK : No one. Because they are worthless in the European film industry. Mikhalkhov is the only one in the East to have this audience.
  • What is your position on the European film market, but what is your value?
    • EK : About 7 to 8 million euros, and it could increase if I took actors known for my films. Or if I decided to shoot in English, or in French. But I love to shoot with amateurs, and have fun on the set when you say “chief, I will do what you want, but do not jump the pig, and let the pig does not jump me either … “I like to go in search of spirits when I turn. And that, nobody can afford it, and it is more important for me than to think by the financial means.
  • The problem is that pro-Western elites do not accept European social values. What do you think ?
    • EK : I have the problem with Europe and with Serbia. When I come from the west to Serbia, it's a bad dilemma. Should I become like Biljana Srbljanovic or Harold Pinter? I learned in the West that Pinter's ideas were to consider Blair and Bush first on the list of war criminals, and that both were the engines of “world desires”. But Biljana Srbljanovic teaches us how the Serbs were bad guys. It uses a specific energy and primitivism to reach this conclusion. Pinter knows what Bush and Blair have done, and what their plans are, but if someone justifies his own crimes and makes them worse, that's the problem! Their crimes are acceptable, but not ours. And if we then did all the equivalent crimes! Going in this direction, we will soon return to Napoleon and Tutankhamen to put on the list of the greatest war criminals. Western civilizations are advanced enough to give us lessons, but they also have a long history of genocides and human catastrophes. All major technological advances come from military bases …
  • How do you feel about being the constant target of Non Governmental Organizations?
    • EK : That amuses me a lot!
  • You're not afraid?
    • EK : Abraham became an individual when he asked the people to pray for the God of men, instead of the different gods from before. In the same way as Abraham, I understand my autonomy and independence as an intellectual completion. If you think about this young NGO youth, they are brave because they have the Pentagon behind them. I am independent, and they are submissive. They are dependent on the nation, the church, the identity. I am really sick of the measures of our nationalism and our patriotism. After taking lessons in Washington, they explain our independence. The main idea of ​​my life is to protect my identity and culture, but for that I do not want to hurt anyone. I can not stand these little kids because they keep saying that Americans are superior. When Boris Tadić said some honest words about Kosovo, and we saw the tears in his eyes, the comments of Vreme magazine were that we had a decent president, and that he was like Matija Becković. Can you imagine a country whose greatest poet has nothing in common with its president? If you read the attacks on Prime Minister Kostunica, he is a nationalist. He led the first government coalitions after the war, and in the early years, ensured that Serbia ensured its transition and was not sold or economically destroyed. They also mentioned Minister Velja Ilic. Like her task with Marina Abramovic, that man builds bridges and better roads. We attack him on his behavior and his attitude. As if we were asking Jessie James to become Marina Pliseckaja.
  • But, what are you doing here that can be seen as an escape from civilization and reality? Globalization has a snowball effect, and nobody can escape it?
    • EK : Mecavnik is not my escape, it's a place where I can keep all my beliefs. Against globalization, we can not fight alone, and we can not prevent it. But we must defend his identity. So we can defend ourselves, even if the place is as small as the Highlands.
  • How do you react when the media describes your identity?
    • EK : If I look for my aesthetic reasons, they are those of Zika Pavlovic, Sasa Petrovic, and Dusan Makavejev, even if some ideas of Makavejev, I hate them. I consider myself in the same intellectual circle as they are. And they are Serbs, as we have been before and as we always will be. This nation is rich in culture, and has many great writers, which is good enough for an identity culture.
  • It's not very politically correct, but I have to ask you the question of your baptism …
    • EK : I did not decide to change my religion, for the simple reason that I did not have a religion, before I was baptized Orthodox. So it's not a conversion. I had read the Old Testament while studying in Prague, and it was closer to me than the Koran when my grandmother died. I read it in Serbian, while reciting prayers in Arabic that I did not understand. The magazine “Dani” presented this as a conversion, and the title of the article was “from a secular Muslim to a fanatical orthodox”. I am not that, first because one can not be a secular Muslim, and then because I am not a fanatical orthodox. For them, Muslims are all those with Arabic names, who were part of the culture of Sarajevo. I do not deny the fact that at home, there was the specific atmosphere of Muslim families. The house was always open to guests, and they were always well received. In those moments, one could feel the artistic melancholy of distant worlds.
  • Why did you decide to be baptized?
    • EK : I'm over fifty, and every question about life brings questions about death. I prefer to leave behind a clear situation for the next generation of my family, about identity, and not to end up as the hero of Andrić's “Chronicle of Travnik”. A man is arrested and hanged by the Turkish soldiers, because he was asked who he is, and that he answered that he was a “greater Muslim than you” when he was a Roman Catholic. People then asked why he was buried in the Muslim cemetery, and was told that he had declared himself a Muslim.
  • With this act, you decided to cut all your ties with Sarajevo.
    • EK : The elite of Sarajevo society did not say a word when my apartment was taken by the Muslim poet Ibrišimović. He stole me to protect the city from Chetniks3), which makes excuses for everything possible. The house in Visoko of my wife's family who was Slovenian-Croatian was burned down after two years of war. They take your apartment, burn your house, and then they say you miss them. As people say, the one you do not know, lets live it. Can one imagine in Belgrade a situation where Matija Bećković4) would take Srđan Dragojević's apartment5) because he refuses to participate in the war?
  • What do you feel when we mention the success of our artists and that we forget you?
    • EK : In a report on the fifty years of the Cannes Film Festival on the B92 channel, they simply forgot to talk about me. And I learned that it was because of so-called relations with Milošević. I felt rejected. They only mentioned my name when they saw me next to Salma Hayek and Monica Bellucci. They envied me because I was next to pretty women. As in the fable about frog and beef …
  • Could you describe Milošević's share in Balkan cinema?
    • EK : A strange and important event happened: he died unpunished. His responsibility for the wars, for killing the Muslims, faded away. Today, he looks like a single person on a small boat in a turbulent sea. But he stayed like that for nine years. At first, I respected his energy, that of a midfield player, seeking to emulate the South Korean transition model. But in his mind, he had to control the state. His wife then took control, reinforced his weakness, and ended his political career. Today, his name is a scouring brush, or like cigarette smoke, a waste that everyone is talking about, even if his name is now synonymous with dirt … The complex of his personality, I could search in his beliefs that Russia is not on her knees, and behaves like Tito. Peter Handke noticed my support for students opposed to Milošević. I told him that he could have lived under the regime of Mira Marković6). I know what he means with the alter-mondialist struggles, the struggles against world monsters. But hey, he was a clever, intelligent man, but he did not understand that politics was a game of secrets, and that only fools were telling the truth. True politicians never did that. If some people spoke like me, the secret services would kill them, or big companies would shut them up. He said things that everyone did not care about, and never talked about important topics. He always sent people other than him to his place to avoid meeting people …
  • How did you feel when he died in The Hague?
    • EK : I was sad, and I also felt that for Tudjman. In France, they have a program “the puppets of info”, and it looked like that, during his last months: a puppet. I also felt condolences when Tudjman died. I'm just trying to understand what are the secrets that make the leaders, and who is behind who in the Belgrade political establishment. Bosnia under Izetbegović was impossible. Had they had Fikret Abdić7), they could have avoided the war, because he would have managed to sign agreements between the Serbs and the Croats.
  • What is your opinion of Izetbegović?
    • EK : I met him at his place. He was friendly, kind and calm, very interested in me and my job. He listened to me politely. He then asked me what I thought of the idea of ​​making “a bridge over the Drina”. Then he told me that he thought that Andrić was a bastard, that he had betrayed the Bosnians, and that his work was full of hatred. I replied that I did not agree. This scene was at the end of our conversation. I told him he was wrong, and that I did not think he could be my president. Andrić wrote about hatred in his “letter of 1920”, and he already warns us of this hatred between us. Like those people here who think that I'm presenting Serbs or Gypsies because of my films. Over time, I am sure that Mitterrand has concluded the idea of ​​the great heads of state who are not dolls in the hands of big corporations, NGOs and secret services. From a certain point of view, I think that if Charles de Gaulle was not dead, he would be on the list of war criminals.

Traduction : Nina Novaković & Matthieu Dhennin

1) Emir Kusturica makes here a reference to Goran Paskaljević
2) “classical” serbian director
3) serbian fighters, monarchist and nationalist, during the Second World War. The word remains to designate nagatively the ultra-nationalist Serbs
4) Great Serbian writer
5) Serbian director, mostly known for his films Rane and Pretty Village, pretty flame
6) the widow of Slobodan Milošević
7) Bosnian politician who opposed to Alija Izetbegović
en/itv_06-12_nin.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/11 12:29 by matthieu1