Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Emir Kusturica

Najpoznatiji srpski reditelj Emir Kusturica izjavio je u intervjuu ruskom dnevniku „Utro” da on nije „menjao veru” kada se krstio u pravoslavnoj crkvi.
Kusturica je objasnio da je jedan deo njegove porodice u vreme Otomanskog carstva primio islam, a da se on krstio.
„To nije promena vere, već prosto krštenje”, rekao je on, dodajući da se deo porodice u kojoj je njegov otac, uvek smatrao Srbima.
Povodom sadašnjeg života na Mokroj Gori, planini u zapadnoj Srbiji, kojoj je udahnuo novi život, Kusturica je rekao da je odlučio da živi tamo gde ga „ljudi biraju ne na izborima, već zato što im se dopada ili ne”, a da je Drvengrad jedna moderna verzija manastirskog života i njegova zadužbina.
On je dodao i da izuzetno voli da boravi u Moskvi, jer u Rusima vidi bratski narod: „To je kulturna i antropološka veza koju niko ne može da raskine”.
Kusturica se u intervjuu posebno osvrnuo na pitanje Kosova, ocenjujući da ukoliko Zapad prizna nezavisnost Kosova, on priznaje i „biološki recept” i ideju o vladavini „onih kojih je više nad onima kojih je manje”, a ne građansko društvo, za koje se bori.
„Ne razumem težnju Zapada da prizna nezavisnost Kosova, gde nije zaživela ideja o zajedničkom životu, gde treba da vlada princip biološkog recepta, koji se zasniva na činjenici da je Albanaca više i da oni treba da imaju nacionalno prvenstvo”, rekao je on, ocenjujući da „to potpuno protivreči idejama nove Evrope”.
Kusturica je sebe opisao kao „zakletog antiglobalistu” koji je procesom globalizacije nezadovoljan jer predstavlja „kraj epohe, izdaju principa hrišćanstva u potpunosti, izdaju principa zajedničkog života, svega što čovek može da stvori i čemu pripada”.
Antiglobalizam je otpor gubitku individualnosti. Sve što postoji u ljudskoj kulturi stvoreno je u najranijoj fazi, kada je kultura samo pridavala formu životu. Sada je to neopaganski princip, koji stavlja korporaciju iznad svega, a celokupno ljudsko iskustvo se pretvara u tržište i profit. I to je najveća katastrofa”, ukazao je on. „Korporativni kapitalizam guši individualnost”, ukazao je Kusturica i podsetio da je Hristova ideja milosrđa i saosećanja „najznačajnija ljudska ideja”. (Tanjug/Mondo)
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On Đurđevdan (St. George's Day) in 2005 Emir was baptised into the Serb Orthodox Church as Nemanja Kusturica (Немања Кустурица) in Savina monastery near Herceg Novi, Montenegro.
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'I will not cut my film'
He has won two Palmes d'Or and is threatening to pull his latest film from British cinemas. Emir Kusturica invites Fiachra Gibbons to the village he has built near Belgrade to explain all Friday March 4, 2005
The Guardian
Emir Kusturica has just finished writing his letter to the censor.
"I will not cut my film because, because, because ... because of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz." "What do you think?" he asks me. I tell him that as an argument it has a certain economy and elegance, but it might not be the most practical of approaches.
"I don't care," he says. "That shithead is driving me nuts. He is messing with my sleep."
The British censor has asked him to remove a scene from his new film, Life Is a Miracle - a typically full-blooded romance set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war - in which a cat pounces on a dead pigeon.
Kusturica had thought it a reasonable metaphor for how idealists and innocents are easy prey for calculating big beasts in times of conflict.
The offending shot lasts of all of two seconds and is about as disturbing as an episode of the Teletubbies. But the British censor said no and Kusturica, one of the greatest film directors in the world, is so flummoxed and upset that he is considering pulling the film from the UK altogether.
I beg him not to. "You don't realise what an emotive issue pigeons are in England," I say, with all the plausibility I can muster.
"I am not cutting my film for this jerk," he insists. "Was he brought up by pigeons or something? I love Ken Loach and your football and your working class, but I do not believe the great English culture is going to be undermined by one eastern European cat.
"I just don't get it. The pigeon was already dead, we found it in the road. And no other censor has objected. What is the problem with you English? You killed millions of Indians and Africans, and yet you go nuts about the circumstances of the death of a single Serbian pigeon. I am touched you hold the lives of Serbian birds so dear, but you are crazy. I will never understand how your minds work."
The workings of the undeniably brilliant mind of Emir Kusturica, the only director other than Francis Ford Coppola to have won the Cannes Palme d'Or twice, can be equally unfathomable. Stories of Kusturica are legend. Of his gonzo love for guns, how he likes to fire off a few hundred rounds before breakfast to get the juices going, of the controlled anarchy of his sets, awash with goats, geese, Gypsy bands and explosives, and how he works his crews to the point of lunacy. On Life Is a Miracle, a sprawling Zhivago of a love story, he shot for 12 full nights in the small city of Cacak and didn't use a second of the footage.
Kusturica is a walking morass of contradictions: a Sarajevan "Muslim" whom many Bosnians accuse of abandoning his city at its hour of greatest need to side with the Serbs. And yet Kusturica was a fearless critic of Milosevic. He challenged one of his most blood-drenched henchmen to a public duel in Belgrade and squared up to a still more grisly Serb supremacist in the street.
Like his great films - Underground, Time of the Gypsies, When Father Was Away on Business and Black Cat, White Cat - he is passionate, unpredictable and hilarious: you can see why he drives himself and the people around him to madness, and why they always forgive him for it. He has an irresistible mix of bravery, warmth and vulnerability.
Kusturica does not have fans as much as followers, who turn out in their thousands all over the world to his concerts when this bear of a man takes his Balkan "punk" band, the No Smoking Orchestra, on the road. But nothing could have prepared even them for what Kusturica has done now.
I turn up in Belgrade as the thermometer sinks south of -20 degrees. "Come to my village," he demands. "I have something to show you." Three thousand feet up on Tara mountain the next morning, the full effect of his latest piece of "inspired lunacy" sits under 2ft of snow. Kusturica has sunk himself deep into debt, spending more than £1m to build a pastoral paradise, his own version of Plato's republic, in one of Europe's last great peasant redoubts.
"This is my Utopia," he declares. "I lost my city [Sarajevo] during the war, now this is my home. I am finished with cities. I spent four years in New York, 10 in Paris, and I was in Belgrade for a while. To me now they are just airports. Cities are humiliating places to live, particularly in this part of the world. Everything I earn now goes into this."
What started as a couple of salvaged traditional wooden houses 18 months ago, on a bluff above the spectacularly beautiful Mokra Gora valley in western Serbia, has mushroomed into a modern take on the great monastery-universities of the middle ages. The village is equipped with a library, Serbia's most advanced cinema and, most incongruously of all, an underground basketball arena - a tribute to the three world championships won by the former Yugoslavia.
For Kustendorf, as he calls the place, is also a hymn to Serbian cultural achievement and traditional living - a kind of cultural Alamo, as a country that has been cut off from the world by war and sanctions opens itself up to the gentle mercies of globalisation.
"I am making a stand here. I want to do something constructive. In Serbia a lot of people hate me because they want to westernise, not understanding that the western world is bipolar, with very good things and very bad things. Since they don't have experience of the west, they even believe that western shit is pie." Given that the prophets of the free market in Serbia often tend to be the same gangsters, war profiteers, smugglers and chancers that Kusturica lampoons in his films, you can see his logic.
Kusturica is even planning a film as a part of his crusade against consumerism, where the daughter of a prostitute flees the city with a country boy. "They say that I am a conservative, but I am not. I want there to be an alternative, to have other options rather than just this one authoritarian, corporate model. To me there has been a tectonic change in the world and corporate control has become the new bolshevism. I know it is crazy, but I want to create a place where people can come in an organised way to think differently, to think their own thoughts."
His model for this Balkan Fitzcarraldo is Chilander, the great Serbian monastery on the Greek holy mountain of Athos, which kept Slavonic scholarship alive in the dark ages, though it is not clear that even he knows what he will end up with. Just like his films, there's a great deal of extemporizing. He has laid out and built 25 houses already, using his own idiosyncratic rules of classical proportion involving a set of ropes and a great deal of guesswork, "like the ancient Greeks did".
Yet this seat of learning will soon also have its own ski slope, and he is contemplating building another more secluded house for himself now that hundreds of his fans have begun to descend on the place at weekends. "The original monastery house in which I planned to spend the rest of my life is not working out. People come and you have to offer hospitality. Sometimes it's a bit like being in a glass cage." Even on the day I was there, he was stopped four times in the snow by visitors wanting to talk and have their photos taken with him.
Yet there is no doubting the sincerity of Kusturica's vision. He describes the Damascene moment when he decided to build the village like a celestial visitation. "One day when I was shooting I noticed a shaft of light hit the hillside. 'There I will build a village,' I thought." But the most jaw-dropping thing of all, given that Kusturica is descended from several generations of Bosnian Muslims, is that the centerpiece of the place is an orthodox church dedicated to the 13th-century scholar Sava, the patron saint of Serbia. What would his late father, Murat, have thought of that? "My father was an atheist and he always described himself as a Serb. OK, maybe we were Muslim for 250 years, but we were orthodox before that and deep down we were always Serbs, religion cannot change that. We only became Muslims to survive the Turks."
The war, and his despairing attempt to cling to the debris of the old Yugoslavia, still casts a long shadow on his work. He insists he didn't choose sides, and it was his refusal to do so that made him a pariah in Sarajevo, a city that he clearly loves but which he probably cannot return to. Mokra Gora is about as close as you can be in Serbia to Sarajevo without crossing the border. Even his house looks out over the mountains to Bosnia. It is hard not to see him as a man inching his way home. The war mostly passed this place by. Shepherds in sheep-pelt coats still make their own cheese, flowery rakia and smoked sausage.
The Muslim villages over the hills in the Drina valley were not so lucky. Many who refused to abandon their homes in 1992 were massacred. Plenty of Serbs died too, of course. Life Is a Miracle begins in the weeks before this idyll disintegrated and ends during the war when a Serb falls in love with a female Muslim hostage who is about to be exchanged for his own captured soldier son. It is based on a true story of torn loyalties, and Kusturica says it really hit home. The main character could almost be a cipher for him. Like thousands of others in the former Yugoslavia, Kusturica refused to believe that war was coming. "I couldn't accept what was happening. I have dealt with it now. It no longer haunts me," he insists, but you wonder. Much still rankles more than a decade on. He recounts the story of how an American journalist grilled him at Cannes when he made Underground, about why he hadn't made a film attacking Milosevic. " 'Have you ever heard of metaphor?' I asked him."
He is now making a documentary about Diego Maradona, someone with whom he feels more than a little cosmic affinity. "I am very impulsive too - I know how it can drive you into the zone of madness." We talk about that goal, the "hand of God", and the church that sprang up in Buenos Aires to honour the footballer, the cult of Santa Maradona. "Most people only remember Maradona for the bad parts now," he says. "But he was a genius, someone who lifted us and himself up to the level of the gods. When he said after he scored that goal that it was the hand of God, to me it really was. There are always motherfuckers queuing up to pull you down to earth. But we must fly occasionally, we all have to feel that joy or we are nothing."
· Life Is a Miracle is released on March 11.

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