Interview in Republika Srpska magazine Ekstra magazin, in july 2003

The one who's called ”the genius with unbrushed hair” has always been the target of hypersensitive people of ex-Yugoslavia, who think being able to judge the moral values. He was said to be a man without morals, honesty and to have betrayed his country, but nobody would dare to attack his talent, his glory and his pride. These last years, it always was of good tone to attack Emir Kusturica. He and his films are political events in his ex-country - and of the first class events - and he is considered with as much importance as the politicians. Said to be Serb nationalist at the time of Milošević, to show the Serbs as Gypsies, to betray Bosnia, ”the Emir of Serbia” as they call him, the genius with hard words, strong films and tight fists is a director of the same level as Almodovar or von Trier. As we discuss in a bar in Dorcol, in the suburbs of Belgrade, we have the impression that people here do not like it, and between two cups of tea, on his guards, he seems ready to answer: ”Be careful, I am Kusturica.

  • Belgrade never received you as you wished. What do you think about it ?
    • Emir Kusturica : I arrived here as a child, directly from the station in the Balkan streets, I always had strong emotions there, because it is from here that I went all over the world. From Belgrade, I went to the faculty of Prague, thanks to my aunt. It was for me the place from where I could go everywhere in the world, and where I returned when I had enough to be abroad. As a station I could not pass. Like New York for Balkans. Gently destroyed, full with strange constructions, Belgrade has always been the center of the political and cultural life of the Balkans. I have my place here. This place has maybe not the same kind of intensity as in the past, but I am a divided person ; and a part of me is in Argentina, in France, in Japan, and of course in Belgrade. However, I've always had here a large audience.
  • What did you feel to be rejected from your own city ? Or was Sarajevo just a starting point to reach other tops ?
    • EK : If there were not the war and this tragedy, I would readily pass some time in Sarajevo in the year, but all that occurred in this city, my decisions, my animosity became stronger. We were enemy on ideological levels, then it turned into wound, on both sides, and the damage on my own family is obvious. My family is the model of a kind of international idea, because we are a mixture various nations. During the war, Sarajevo did not do anything to avoid the mobilization of the Muslims, not only to send them to fight, but also to gather them in a separate country. Only Izetbegovic had the capacity to be president of all the nations of Bosnia, there should we live and his ideas should we defend. If only he said the truth and stopped collaborating with Karadžić and the Croat nationalists. He wanted to make a nation and to put it in position of victim, which was the truth. He can be blamed, even if he did not ask himself the bombardments, but the extremist Serb leaders always got along well with him. I cannot stop thinking about it, when Bosnian police struck the door of my parents apartment, that they stole value things, and that my father, who was Partisan during the second world war, was declared Tchetnik. Two months later, he died of a heart attack in Herceg Novi. They burned two houses in Visoko, after the agreements of Dayton, which was a clear sign. “ethnic cleansing” is a difficult classification.
      Regarding Sarajevo, I have no emotion ; this story exceeded all my capacities of patience. I still have there very good memories and good friends, but this city is not free. They live under a protectorate. OK, let us look at the facts from another point of view, and at the end, you trace a line and you look at where you are. The result is disastrous, they never lived so miserably in their whole life, and I do not think that they condemn Karadžić in the future, like war criminal.
      I could have adopted an easier position in this interview, with nice words, but that I will not do. I am not this kind of people. I pass for evil. I am delighted to take care of my enemies and to take care about it because, can you imagine a country without real enemy, without dissident ? It would not be a country.
  • What brings the life of emigrant to you?
    • EK : That suits me very well. Thank God, because I lived in Sarajevo and Belgrade, because I already thought that before the war. Within this provincial framework, my work will just produce disorders. Far from the eyes, far from the heart. From time to time, I come with my films, and I cause discussed reactions. Some people like, others not. But I've left far from here. Thus, those who think bad of me, I advise them to make films, because films are the only thing I understand. It is very easy to make it ; a film on the Serbs, with many effects, send your message to the world, and they will accept you.
  • Why don't you speak any more to Goran Bregović ?
    • EK : Goran Bregović is a kind of modern person. He is likely to steal your wallet and then to invite you to a diner with your money. He can show great friendship, through which we passed, then he protected himself, but with charm. Thanks to my friendship with Iggy Pop, he could make the song of Arizona Dream, and after years of trial, we learn that the music was stolen, and that he must pay for it. He mocked Iggy and me, and the CD was prohibited. On the other side, his talent is enormous, and I admit it without any discussion. I sometimes made regrettable errors by judging certain people, but there is nevertheless always a minimum of moral values to have, and my friends cannot have the ethics of a water plant. It is hard to hear from the French Justice Court that the music was stolen. He said that I had told things on him because of my stress. I got rid of that with my films some twenty years ago, and it is rather him who reacts like this today, as a beginner who discovers the world.
  • Are you still in contact with Milorad Vucelic1) ?
    • EK : No, I haven't seen him for a long time, but I couldn't say anything bad against him. He was correct with me, and I cannot complain. I do not feel enemy to him, even if I know that it is not very popular to say that about him, because he is related to Milošević and his television.
  • At the time you were filming Underground
    • EK : Yes. I remember; the German producer had asked me, knowing that Vucelić was the director of Serbian television, in what he was engaged, regarding the film, and the message the film was going to represent. I thought that he knew it well, because he passed by various phases in its life. At the communist time, he worked in the theatres, and made great productions. The relations between us two were very good, and often what people mention it is the financial support. In Underground, the money came from France, and was spent in Serbia ; 2 million dollars, I think. Serbian television and Mr. Covic, the mayor of Belgrade, made this film possible and supported us. We spent much money form world banks.
  • Do you still fight ?
    • EK : No, it is a myth. But I did it…
  • Have you already beaten up someone ?
    • EK : I do not have much luck for that. I practically do not have social life. I don't go out very often, because my sensitivity is not recommended for intensive contacts. When Bergman beats up a journalist, you'll have a world where his films can be appreciated. In my case, it wasn't for my films. It was for remarks, lies and stupidities. People say things like : Kusturica and Sidran make fundamentalist and Marxists films. When I meet these people, I have a dilemna, how to let this kind of lies, but how to make them understand that they are wrong ? I avoid conflicts, and these people have chance because I don't go out very often.
  • At the end, you miss your revenge ?
    • EK : I forget these things… even when they exceed the limits. I am of peaceful nature, but I need to react on people, on life. I am stubborn.
  • What do you think people say on Koštunica, that he would be nationalist.
    • EK : Well, probably we have machines that can discover who is a nationalist and who is not. You are declared such if you refuse to drink Coca-Cola or to eat hamburgers. They say he is nationalist because he speaks like De Gaulle, but in his acts, you find no trace of nationalism. All depends on what you call nationalism. You can look at what occurs in Algeria, without making anything; and simply comment on. We categorize. But to be nationalist today, it is well. At the time of Tito, Serb nationalism were clever people, with whom one could discuss. It makes me laughing, when I read what someone who works in Helsinki for the Humans Rights Committee writes that Koštunica is national-socialist… He likes his country, and emotionally, he has national feelings, but that can't make anything bad. I was without nation ; my only bond with Serbia was my language ; and I was told to be nationalist. Thus, if you do not have a nation, if do not believe in God, you are nationalist because you say that Reagan sent American soldiers to Nicaragua to kill people in the name of politics. Koštunica and I, we have similar family names. I make jokes of it when I see him. I told him that I had received congratulations when he was elected president. Greek friends wished me good luck for the Presidency of Serbia. They said that if Vaclav Havel had succeeded, I must also be able to be President.
  • Regarding Milošević's trial in The Hague, do you think it would be better if he was judged in Belgrade ?
    • EK : There is a million problems. As President of the Republic, everyone can sue you. Anyway, as long as the social environment is not as advanced as in America where the President puts his hand on the Bible and lies so easily. This trial is based on false facts. If you say that he betrayed his oath on the Bible, they say you it is not serious. On the other side when the American President has a love affair, they make such a mess of it. In this situation, I wonder: how it is possible that the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina was made in Washington ? Today, everything is possible. I know people who were strong opponents to Milošević during the War, who are patriotic today, and who say they will defend their War criminal. If he is really. In this trial, it is a situation of pre-judgement. He is condemned before being accused. In Europe, people say that it is already finished. In fact, all and everyone is being judged, his politics and him personally. I would like to ask many questions about this court, who made this European Court, but the Americans are not under this jurisdiction. In any case it is ideal to make a great nation. Finally, I think he will be judged here ; it is what is going to happen. You will see.

Aleksandar Djuricic, translation by Matthieu Dhennin & Nina Novaković

1) Milorad Vucelić was the director of Serb television under Milošević ; it was one of the Co-producer of Underground. It is accused of complicity in Zoran Djindjic's murder; he is in prison since April 2003
en/itv_03-07_ekstra.txt · Last modified: 2008/02/17 16:08 by matthieu1