I was born several times, and I'm sure one of my births took place in Cannes.

Emir Kusturica in Cannes Born on 24 November 1954 in Sarajevo, Emir Kusturica (Емир Кустурица) is a Serbian director, musician and producer. Author of nine films, several television and short films, he also plays guitar in a rock band. Among his many prizes, he has received two Golden Palms in Cannes for When father was away on business and Underground, and the silver Bear (Special Jury Prize) in Berlin for Arizona Dream.



Emir Kusturica in his first TV film Emir Kusturica was born in Sarajevo, main town of current Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even though Bosnian Muslim, his family has Slavic orthodox roots. His father Murat, as many millions of other Yugoslavs, had renounced to his faith to become a communist. Emir, only son, denounced the communism to become… director. Young Emir, certainly more by curiosity than to oppose his “good” family (his father worked in the Ministry of Information of Bosnia and Herzegovina1)), went easily with “bad guys” of Sarajevo. His parents decided to send him abroad at 18 to protect him from such people. Since he was always in the neighbourhood cinema of Sarajevo, they sent him to learn cinema. A cousin was then leaving in Prague, Emir was thus sent to the prestigious FAMU, the school of Prague from which Miloš Forman, Jirí Menzel or Goran Paskaljević were graduated.


At that time, I was like a virgin land. I was very curious, but I didn't like school, and I had no real connections with the cinema. From that point of view, my career in cinema is a coincidence. But in fact, Hajrudin Krvavać, a friend of my father was directing institutional films at that time, and he once took me on a set. I was completely seduced by the wide variety of knowledges and experiences we could benefit from cinema. When I came back to Sarajevo after having done a good cinema school, I realized how much my region, my childhood memories, my personal experiences were rich enough to create stories. It was the first time I had fully realized what was the cinema.

Quickly appreciated, his first short films set this student apart from the crowd. His professor had already noticed it: with Guernica, and again which Titanic, which denounces the anti-Jewish racism in the WW2, left favourable impressions and he said : ”the only thing you'll leave behind will be your film; the end justifies the means”. This sentence marked him and helped him complete his first personal projects, such as the very risky When father was away on business, denouncing the political deportations in the communist Yugoslavia, a taboo subject at the time, shortly after Tito's death. Until then, Emir had always shot in his own language, using even the actor's local accents, to enhance the pluralism of Yugoslavia: Do you remember Dolly Bell ? is the first Yugoslav film that was shot in the local Bosnian dialect, and not in the official language of the country, Serbo-Croatian (the equivalent of “BBC English”). Emir makes then an ambitious project with his scenarist: make a trilogy about the cosmopolitan city of Sarajevo. The second episode will be When father was away on business, but the unexpected Golden Palm will drive Emir into another world, and he will leave without finishing his trilogy.

To calm down after the Cannes' victory, Emir Kusturica put the camera down for a while. He played the bass guitar in a punk-rock band of Sarajevo : Zabranjeno Pušenje (Smoking Prohibited). The band is subversive, lyrics are corrosive, style is eclectic. During these years, Emir teams up with Dr. Nele Karajlić, the leader of the band.

New York

The Golden Palm had opened all doors of the cinema to him: large budgets are proposed. Emir thinks about different subjects, different places, but finally it's in his own country that he directs Time of the Gypsies, after having read articles about Gypsies dealing with human beings. Emir digs the subject with a journalist, and spends several months in one of the largest gypsy camps in Europe, near Skopje in Macedonia. At the end of the shooting, Czech director Miloš Forman calls him to New York to replace him at Columbia University. Editing of Time of the Gypsies will be finished there.

After much contemplation, it's in English that he shoots his next film: Arizona Dream. One of his students at Columbia University gives him a script about the American dream. But in the meantime, the war starts raging in the Balkans, and far from his family, Emir cannot work any more. The shooting turns into a nightmare, and the film takes on darker tones…


Murat, Emir Kusturica's father, dies of an heart attack soon after the family house in Sarajevo is sacked. The family finds refuge in Montenegro. After this experience, Emir feels he needs to get back to his country to tell to the Westerners the story of his country. He starts his most ambitious opus: Underground. Based on a scenario written by Dušan Kovačević, Yugoslav great theatre author, he draws the story of 50 years of his country, since WW2 to the recent days. In a burlesque form, taking some tricks from the greatest masters, the film is highly baroque and colourful. The background, however, seems ambiguous to those who are partially familiar with the subject. Feeling that he fulfilled his “duty”, but also that he wasn't understood, Emir Kusturica thinks of retiring from cinema (see the polemics initiated by French intellectuals… His second Golden Palm remains nevertheless as the most significant of his career, and adds his name among the greatest directors of all times.

Quickly enough, Emir Kusturica reconsiders his decision and chooses to change the tone, making lighter subjects and finishing with “happy endings”: in Black Cat, White Cat and Super 8 Stories, you feel the optimism even if every day life is not always perfect. Optimism can also be seen on stage as Emir rejoins his friend Dr. Nele Karajlić and others in Zabranjeno Pušenje, re-baptised under their English translation: No Smoking Orchestra. Emir composes, plays and tours with the band. The success of the concerts is impressive, from South America to Japan.


Emir return behind the camera for a new long shooting : Life is a miracle took one year and a half for shooting, and Emir fell in love with the landscapes of Mokra Gora : the nature has almost the leading role, with gorgeous colours and impressive views. Once finished, Emir built there an ethno-village : Küstendorf, aiming at opening a cinema school, local crafts, guest houses, restaurants…

Back in Cannes in may 2005, Emir Kusturica is chosen to be the president of the jury of the festival. He returns after in Küstendorf to shoot his next film (Promise me this). In 2007, he is raised chevalier des arts et des lettres by French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de vabre.

Emir Kusturica spends his life between cameras, festivals, concerts with the No Smoking Orchestra, Küstendorf (the wooden village in Serbia) and Andrićgrad (the stone village in Bosnia).

Personnal awards

Beyond the prestigious prizes his films have gathered in different film festivals in the world, Emir Kusturica has also been awarded for his career :

  • PalicOn 13 july 2013, Emir Kusturica receives the “Aleksandar Lifka” prize at Palić film festival (Serbia)

  • OdessaOn 12 july 2013, during the 4th Odessa international film festival in Ukraine (OIFF), Emir Kusturica receives the “Golden Duke”, as a lifetime achievement. The same day, the No Smoking Orchestra gives a concert on the famous stairs where the “Battleship Potemkine” was shot.
  • On 5th july 2012, Emir Kusturica received during the Festival international de jazz de Montréal, Canada, the Prix Antonio-Carlos-Jobim 2012, which grants an artist who was particularly remarked in the domain of world music.
  • Order of Saint SavaOn 12th of May 2012, Emir Kusturica was granted the order of Saint-Sava by Serbian orthodox church patriarch Ireneus, for his efforts for the preservation of the Serbian traditions and culture.
  • Letní filmová škola 2011, Emir Kusturica & Otokar VavraOn 23 july 2011, Emir Kusturica receives the annual prize of the Association of czech film at the 37th Letní filmová škola of Uherské Hradiště, the largest cinema festivalof Czech Republic. The same prize was also awarded to Otakar Vavra, who is 100 years old this year, and who was cinema teacher to Emir Kusturica at the FAMU in Prague. Emir Kusturica received this prize for “his contribution to european cinema, emancipation of author cinematography in former Yougoslavia countries and his exceptional imagination.”
  • Art Film Festival18 June 2011, Emir Kusturica receives the Golden Camera at Art Film Festival of Trenčianske Teplice (Slovakia) for his “exceptional contribution to cinema”.

  • 9 November 2010, Belarus president Alexandre Loukachenko gives the presidential prize to Emir Kusturica “for the preservation and developpement of the traditions and spirituality in cinema”.
  • 14 July 2010, Emir Kusturica is raised as Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand

  • 17 June 2010, Emir Kusturica receives the Roma-Mediterranean award at the Taormina Festival in Italy, for the Dialogue between the Cultures.

  • 21 January 2010, Emir Kusturica receives from Kirill, the Russian orthodox Church patriarch, the orthodox people international funds prize for the ”reinforcement of the unity of orthodox peoples” as well as for ”the development of Serbian cinema, culture and spiritual traditions”.
  • 7 december 2009, Emir Kusturica receives the “golden star” at the International Marrakech Film Festival, for having always pushed the imagination at its maximum in order to give birth to the most beautiful pieces of work.

  • 13 November 2009, Emir Kusturica receives the 8½ prize at the Torino Film Festival “for the inventive quality of his films and the absolute originality of his style”.

  • 1 November 2009, Emir Kusturica receives a prize in Syria at the Damascus Film Festival, for his whole career.
  • 22 March 2009, Emir Kusturica receives the Guadalajara International Prize, in Mexico. This prize awards the work of personalities who do not belong to a latino-american country, and whose work has transcended the frontiers of his own country. He is also made honorary citizen of the city of Guadalajara.

  • 8 February 2007, Emir Kusturica was raised as Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Arts & letters knight) by French minister of culture Renaud Donnadieu de Vabres.

  • 21 October 2005 : Emir Kusturica has won the Philippe Rotthier architecture prize for the building of a city (for Küstendorf)

  • August 2005 : Emir Kusturica receives a golden swan in Copenhague festival for his work in favour of european cinema.
  • September 2004 : Emir Kusturica is made honorary citizen of the city of Uzice2), neighbour of Küstendorf, where Emir Kusturica had settled for the shooting of Life is a miracle.
  • August 2004 : Emir Kusturica receives in Belgrade the King Stephan Prize, for his career.
  • 2001 : Emir Kusturica receives the annual prize (silver ribbon) by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, for his career.
1) in an interview, Emir has described the work of his father like the one of Sam Lowry in the film Brazil by Terry Gilliam
2) In 2008, following tensions with the city, this title is cancelled
en/biography.txt · Last modified: 2013/07/14 22:59 by matthieu1