When father was away on business

Director Emir Kusturica
Original title Otac na službenom putu
Working title Children diseases
Release 1985
Original language Serbo-croatian
Length 1h45
Music Zoran Simjanović
Script Abdulah Sidran, Emir Kusturica
Photography Vilko Filać


Golden Palm à l'unanimité du Cannes Film Festival, 1985

In 1986, the film was selected for the Oscar of the best foreign film, and for the Golden Globe of the best foreign film.


Tito's break-up with Stalin in 1948 marked the beginning of not only confusing, but also very dangerous years for many hard-core Yugoslav communists. A careless remark about the newspaper cartoon is enough for Mesha to join many arrested unfortunates. His family is now forced to cope with the situation and wait for his release from prison. The story is told from the perspective of Malik, his young son who believes the mother's story about father being ”away on business”.



  • Moreno D'E Bartolli …. Malik (Meša's son)
  • Miki Manojlović …. Meša (Mehmed)
  • Mirjana Karanović …. Senija (Meša's wife)
  • Mustafa Nadarević …. Zijo (Meša's brother in law)
  • Mira Furlan …. Ankica (Zijo's wife)
  • Predrag Lakovic …. Franjo (Senija's brother)
  • Davor Dujmović …. Mirza (Meša's elder son)



CountryFormat audio languages subtitles languages buy online Description
drapeau_bosnieherzegovine.jpg Bosnia and Herzegovina DVD Z2 PALserbo-croatian 2.0-
France DVD Z2 PAL Serbo-CroatianFrenchAmazon.fr Interview
France VHS PAL Serbo-CroatianFrenchAmazon.fr
Germany VHS PAL Serbo-CroatianGerman
Hungary DVD Z2 PALMagyar 2.0-
Italy VHS PAL Serbo-CroatianItalian
Italy DVD Z2Serbo-CroatianItalian
Russia DVD Z5 PALBosnian 2.0, Russian 2.0Russian amazon.com
drapeau_serbie.jpg Serbia VHS PAL Bosnian- yu4you.com
drapeau_serbie.jpg Serbia DVD Z2 PALBosnian 2.0- yu4you.com
drapeau_slovenie.jpg Slovenia DVD Z2 PALBosnian 2.0Slovenian
South Korea DVD Z0 NTSCSerbo-Croatian 2.0Korean
United Kingdom DVD Z2 PAL Serbo-Croatian 5.1Englishamazon.co.ukinterview with Emir Kusturica
USA VHS NTSC BosnianEnglishAmazon.com
USA DVD Z0 NTSCBosnian 2.0 & 5.1EnglishAmazon.com


Note : One can already see in this film some of Kusturica's favourite actors : Miki Manojlović, of course, that we can see again in Underground, Black Cat, White Cat & Promise me this, Davor Dujmović (unforgettable Perhan of Time of the Gypsies) and Mirjana Karanović (in Underground and Life is a miracle).

Malik, Mesha's son, is able to walk while he's asleep. His night walks are often dangerous… One can consider this character of Malik like an alive metaphor of “New Yugoslavia”, from the point of view of Emir Kusturica in 1985 : Malik sees around him its Muslim Bosnian family, his Serb neighbours, his Croatian aunt… and him, he dreams of a soccer ball in true leather, he dreams to fly, to be free without this small bell attached at toe, he wants to understand why his father left, why one makes burials with empty coffins… and when he walks the night, he returns… healthy : he represents a possible future !

There was a long version of this film, broadcast on Yugoslav television.

Emir Kusturica: ”To win the Golden Palm in Cannes ? I did not believe a second in it. I looked with any chance the broadcast show on TV. I was in Sarajevo in my apartment. Miloš Forman spoke and I said myself it is over, I will not even have the Best Director… ”. Why did Emir leave Cannes after his film was shown ? He absolutely had to go back to Sarajevo to help a friend fixing the central heating in his apartment…

The working title of the film, as proposed by Abdulah Sidran was Children diseases, suggesting that the various episodes of post-second world war Communism were in fact the benign diseases of a young society, and that Malik, the young hero had to suffer through them all. Initially, this film was to be the second of a trilogy that Abdulah Sidran et Emir Kusturica wanted to make on Sarajevo, after Do you remember Dolly Bell ?. There was no third film.

Receiving his first Golden Palm in Cannes, en 1985, Emir Kusturica said to a journalist : ”My film has had a remarkable distribution. I've had twelve copies”, which was exceptional in Yugoslavia at that time…

Caricature Marx & Stalin The famous drawing was really published in the newspaper Politika in July 1950. We can see Marx with Stalin in the background. Meša made the only mistake to make a comment by saying ”isn't it a bit exaggerated … ?”, but it was enough for the zealous ones to send him to a work camp. At that time, relationships between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were very tense : on 28 June 1948, Stalin officially condemned Yugoslavia. The high point will be reached on 22 July 1952 during the football match of the Heslinki (Finland) Olympic Games. Yugoslavia wins against Soviet Union by 3 to 1. The match will be considered by Yugoslavs as a victory of Titism against Stalinism.


In 2011, a theatre play inspired by the film was given at the “Atelje 212”, in Belgrade.

Scenography : Marija Kalabić
Music : Irena Popović

Casting :
Majka, Sena Zolj: HANA SELIMOVIĆ
Faruk/Boro Pjevač: IVAN JEVTOVIĆ
Nataša Petrović/Dama: TANJA PETROVIĆ

Official site : atelje212.rs




en/when_father_was_away_on_business.txt · Last modified: 2011/10/09 23:13 by matthieu1