"The magic child of the Yugoslav cinema", article in French newspaper Le Monde, 17 April 1988

Golden palm in Cannes with When father was away on business, Emir Kusturica is a star in his country. He finishes there the shooting of a big saga on the Gypsies.

What do the directors revealed by the Cannes Film Festival, once their glory is fallen down ? “M6 aime le cinema” investigated : Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch and Emir Kusturica, Golden Palm in 1985 with When father was away on business. Star in his country, the Yugoslav director polishes his last film.

When the film of Goran Paskaljević was released, in France, a few weeks ago, this director, who acquired a solid reputation through the international festivals, acknowledged shameless : this film which is very important for him, on the traffic of gypsy children, has nearly failed to become real. And because of Emir Kusturica. Not by enmity or jealousy ”Our relationship is very neutral, explains Paskaljević, though I would be a little bit jealous of his talent…” But Kusturica had chosen the -almost- same subject. And inside this small cinematographic country that is Yugoslavia, there is no place for two important productions. ”We shoot quickly some small comedies, to recover the money quickly, without ambition, neither artistic nor economic, continues Paskaljević. So I had to manage to produce myself Guardian Angel, and to shoot it quickly like a poetic documentary… Kusturica has more facilities. Since Cannes, he is our number one director, a media personality of importance.

And yet, Kusturica is not a man to let himself fooled by success. His golden Palm, rewarding a pretty intimate chronicle located in the first years of Titoism, had surprised everyone, including undoubtedly the director. Palm allotted by defect, maybe, but rewarding a true director, skilful, for a second film (the first, Do you remember Dolly Bell ? had received the prize of the first work in Venice), to create a climate, and to amuse the spectator. In short, a director with a consumed talent, who had put the finger on a golden subject : the Yugoslav “schism” seen by the eyes of a child, or the influence of politics on the life of a family.

Greeted as the prodigal son of Sarajevo, where he lives, he however knew to wait : he refused the doubtful proposals of Cannon, poor distributor of When father was away on business in the United States ; to polish a subject - that is to give up others, like the Strategy of the thieving magpie, about which he was speaking two years ago ; to work with the effective support high placed people, David Puttnam, then head of Columbia, and Miloš Forman, dedicated defender of Europe in Hollywood.

From this patience was born the project of The House for hanging s (this title is approximate and nonfinal). Project supported by a solid advance-distributor (1,5 million dollars) of Columbia. The story of a gypsy child placed in jail to have killed the man who had sold him ”Kusturica has a big money, comments Paskaljević; if he wants to shoot again some scenes he doesn't like, he has the possibility to do it. He must be at his seventh month of shooting, I think. The subject, what I know about it, has much evolved. It does not have the documentary aspect of my film. Kusturica wants to make a more spectacular film, he developed a whole mythological part, based on the gypsy legends : we will see flying houses. Expensive special effects I could not afford for Guardian Angel. There is at least one common scene in our two films : the Gypsies will make their ritual ablutions in a river. I showed three children, Kusturica has thousands…

Impression confirmed by Martine Jouando, who went herself, for her magazine “M6 aime le cinéma”, on the shooting of the film ”Filming was badly delayed, because Kusturica had problems with his nonprofessional actors. But we understand that he held on this subject. Kusturica is the magic child of the Yugoslav cinema ; he has something of a hooligan who corresponds to his film. He decided to shoot it in the most complicated possible way, in direct sound, with nonprofessionals. But plastically, it is exceptional; it is a saga, a big Hollywood film, very classical, with a very pictorial taste for sumptuous scenes. I stayed three days, but I took a true lesson of cinema.

The only drawback in this situation is the situation of the cinema in Yugoslavia. Kusturica, with his marathon shootings, is the tree which hides the forest. We had once spoken of a “new new wave” of which he would be the leader. But we have no news of those who would compose it, like Slobodan Sijan, director of Who's singing over there ? A golden Palm and, beyond, an international success would have perverse effects on national cinematography ? We hope not. Because we all await for the new Kusturica, which will be perhaps ready for Venice, we would like also to have better news of the Serbo-croatian cinema. Goran Paskaljević, knocked out, will come to make his new film in France. The crisis is thus not always where we think.

Article by ARGELLIES HENRI, translation by Matthieu Dhennin