When Father Was Away on Business
“My purpose is to make a movie to make you warm, to give you some heat. Now this rational world has become a place where only what is cool is good. Do you cut the movie on the basis of the beat of modernity or the basis of the beat of your own heart?” Emir Kusturica
Serbian and Yugoslavian director, writer and actor Emir Kusturica received a Palme d'Or in 1985 for “When Father Was Away on Business” and “Underground.” He also gained recognition for directing “Do You Remember Dolly Bell” (1981), “Time of the Gypsies” (1988), “Arizona Dream” (1991), “Black Cat, White Cat” (1998), “Life is a Miracle” (2004) and “Promise Me This” (2007). As an actor, Kusturica is perhaps most memorable for his role of Ariel Neel Auguste on the critically acclaimed “The Widow of Saint-Pierre” (2000), where he nabbed a César nomination for his performance. Other acting credits include “The Good Thief” (2002) and “Farewell” (2009). In addition, Kusturica once played bass for the band Zabranjeno Pusenje (No Smoking), for whom his son is now the drummer.
Kusturica was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993 and president of the jury at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. He is a professor of drama at Sarajevo Theater Academy.
Currently, Kusturica resides in Drvengrad, Serbia, the village he had built for his film “Life Is a Miracle.” He is married and the father of two.
Childhood and Family:
Emir Kusturica was born to journalist Murat Kusturica and court secretary Senka Numankadić on November 24, 1954, in Yugoslavia. He was raised in a secular Bosnian Muslim family in Sarajevo. He began making amateur films in high school and later pursued film studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). He graduated from FAMU in 1978. He is married to Maja Mandić and has two children, Stribor and Dunja Kusturica. He is known to family and friends by the nickname Kusta.
The Widow of Saint-Pierre
At age 17, Emir Kusturica landed a bit part in the film “Valter brani Sarajevo” (“Walter Defends Sarajevo,” 1972) thanks to his father's friendship with director Hajrudin “Šiba” Krvavac. He went on to appear in the TV series “Valter brani Sarajevo” (1974). While studying at the prestigious FAMU, he made the award winning short “Guernica” (1978), which won first prize at the Student Film Festival in Karlovy Vary. Following graduation, he burst onto the small screen directing the critically praised films “Nevjeste dolaze” (“The Brides Are Coming,” 1978) and “Bife 'Titanik” (“Buffet Titanic,” 1979).
Kusturica made his feature directorial debut with the coming-of-age film “Do You Remember Dolly Bell,” which he co-wrote with Abdulah Sidran. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 1981, and won a FIPRESCI Prize and Golden Lion for Best First Work at the festival. At the time, Kusturica was in the army and received special permission to leave Yugoslavia and receive the award in Venice. The film went on to win a Critics Award at the 1982 São Paulo International Film Festival. It was released in the U.S. on August 15, 1986.
Also in 1981, Kusturica landed a role on the TV film “Kusturica” and was featured in the war film “13. jul,” by director Radomir Saranovic, the next year. In 1984, he directed the TV film “Nije covjek ko ne umre,” but did not resurface with his second film until 1985. Set in post World War II in Yugoslavia, “When Father Was Away on Business,” which was scripted by Sidran, told the story through the eyes of a young boy whose father was sent to a labor camp. The film won a FIPRESCI Prize and Golden Palm at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Yugoslavia) and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.
After scripting “The Magpie Strategy” (“Strategija svrake”), which was directed by Zlatko Lavanic, Kusturica co-wrote (with Gordan Mihić) and directed “Time of the Gypsies” (“Dom za vesanje,” 1988). Starring Davor Dujmović, the film brought Kusturica a Best Director award at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Palm. The film also received a 1990 César nomination for Best Foreign Film, a 1991 Guldbagge Award for Best Foreign Film and a Silver Condor nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 1992 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards. Still in 1988, Kusturica also appeared in the television drama “Vizantija,” which was directed by Milan Bilbija and written by Goran Radovanovic. It was during this time that he began teaching film at Columbia University.
Kusturica next directed Johnny Depp, Jerry Lewis and Faye Dunaway in his first English language feature “Arizona Dream,” which was scripted by David Atkins. Filmed in 1991, the film was released throughout Europe in 1993 before receiving a limited theatrical release in the U.S. It won a Silver Berlin Bear for Special Jury Prize and an Audience Award at the 1994 Warsaw International Film Festival.
In 1995, Kusturica co-scripted and directed “Underground,” which earned him his second Cannes' Golden Palm. He also received a César nomination for Best Foreign Film, an Independent Spirit nomination for Best Foreign Film, a Lumiere Award for Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), a Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film Director and a Silver Condor nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 1997 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards. “Underground” marked his third and last collaboration with Bosnian music composer Goran Bregovic after “Time of the Gypsies” and “Arizona Dream.”
In 1996, Kusturica wrote and directed a five hour TV miniseries version of “Underground” called “Bila jednom jedna zemlja.” He then directed the short “Magic Bus” (1997) and co-wrote (with Gordon Mihic) and directed “Black Cat, White Cat” (1998), which earned Kusturica recognition at the 1998 Venice Film Festival.
Entering the new millennium, Kusturica landed the role of Ariel Neel Auguste in Patrice Leconte's “The Widow of Saint-Pierre” (2000), opposite Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. The film nabbed an Audience Award at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival, a 2001 Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and two nominations at the 2001 César Awards, including a Best Supporting Actor for Kusturica. After directing “Super 8 Stories” (2001), a documentary about his former band, No Smoking, he was cast as Vladimir in “The Good Thief” (2002), Neil Jordan's remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's popular 1955 film “Bob le flambeur.” He costarred in the movie with Nick Nolte and Nutsa Kukhianidze. The next year, he appeared in Dusan Milic's “Strawberries in the Supermarket” (2003).
Kusturica returned to the director's chair when he helmed Slavko Štimac, Nataša Šolak, Vesna Trivalić and Vuk Kostić in the Serbian drama “Life Is a Miracle,” which was entered into the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. He gained a Cinema Prize of the French National Education System and a Golden Palm nomination at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Spike nomination at the 2004 Valladolid International Film Festival, a 2005 César Award for Best European Union Film and a Best Balkan Film Award at the 2005 Sofia International Film Festival for his efforts.
In 2006, Kusturica wrote and directed the TV miniseries “Zivot je cudo” and played the role of Harold in Roberto Andò's “Secret Journey.” He then wrote, directed and produced the comedy “Promise Me This” (2007), which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and nominated for a Golden Palm. He also portrayed Chomsky in Giovanni Robbiano's “Hermano” (2007). In 2008, he wrote and directed the documentary “Maradona by Kusturica.” He was next cast as Sergei Gregoriev in the 2009 thriller “Farewell,” by Christian Carion, and in the short “lice au pays s'émerveille” (also 2009).
Kusturica has completed filming “Vir” (2011), a Serbian drama in which he plays the role of Bogdanov otac. His upcoming directing credits include the comedies “Tweaker's Delight” and “Cool Water” (both 2011).
Copenhagen International Film Festival: Honorary Award, 2005
César: Best European Union Film (Meilleur film de l'Union Européenne), “Life is a Miracle,” 2005
Sofia International Film Festival: Best Balkan Film, “Life is a Miracle,” 2005
Cannes Film Festival: Cinema Prize of the French National Education System, “Life is a Miracle,” 2004
Chicago International Film Festival: Silver Plaque, Best Documentary, “Super 8 Stories,” 2001
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: European Silver Ribbon, 2001
Venice Film Festival: Laterna Magica Prize, “Crna macka, beli macor,” 1998
Venice Film Festival: Little Golden Lion, “Crna macka, beli macor,” 1998
Venice Film Festival: Silver Lion, Best Director, “Crna macka, beli macor,” 1998
Kinema Junpo: Best Foreign Language Film Director, “Underground,” 1997
Lumiere (France): Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “Underground,” 1996
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm, “Underground,” 1995
Warsaw International Film Festival: Audience Award, “Arizona Dream,” 1994
Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Berlin Bear, Special Jury Prize, “Arizona Dream,” 1993
Cannes Film Festival: Best Director, “Time of the Gypsies,” 1989
Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, “When Father Was Away on Business,” 1985
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm, “When Father Was Away on Business,” 1985
São Paulo International Film Festival: Critics Award, “Do You Remember Dolly Bell,” 1982
Venice Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, “Do You Remember Dolly Bell,” 1981
Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion, Best First Work, “Do You Remember Dolly Bell,” 1981