Zlatibor, Yugoslavia, May 17, 2002 (Kyodo) – Emir Kusturica, the Sarajevo-born filmmaker, has won two Palme d’Or awards at Cannes since starting out as a film director in 1981. During his 20-year career he has produced only seven films, all of which have won praise. Asked what he thinks of events in Afghanistan, Kusturica said the United States is “bombarding (the country) in the name of humanity” to achieve “its own strategic and economic interests.” He was speaking to Kyodo News in an interview held at a hotel in the mountainous district of Zlatibor in Yugoslavia, where the director and his colleagues are working on a new film called “Gladno Srce” (Hungry Heart). The district is near Bosnia. “The international community has never intervened properly in” the former Yugoslavia, he says. “The international community was supposed 10 years ago to bring the whole of former Yugoslavia into the European Union, to give credits, to give money and to help it keep going as a normal country,” said Kusturica, wearing a T-shirt with the face of Ernesto “Che” Guevara printed on it.
The following are excerpts from Kyodo’s interview with
His quotes below are edited for the sake of readability.
Q. What is the main theme of your new film “Gladno Srce” (Hungry
It is a love story. The central motive, the central place of the movie is a Serbian guy…whose son went to the war, was captured by the Muslim side. And he gets in touch with one Muslim woman whom he was supposed to exchange for his son, but he falls in love with her. So basically the idea is to create a movie about the war in Bosnia, but not from the ideological, not from this kind of new way of thinking, in which no roots, no real causes are exposed to the audience. This movie does not want to be ideological, this movie wants to … create the context from which the war started and how the war was projected through the love story of 45-year-old man.
Q. Can people understand your film as a message that love is a winner over nationalism?
Certainly, although the theme of my movie is not nationalism, but just the social and historical context from which the love story is being created by the absurd human position, not the position in which love comes naturally. Q. You told me that somebody is creating good and bad, or yes and no. Now the United States is also creating something like that — right and wrong, or black and white. It does not exist. It is just a genre like in a cinema in which they create this kind of impression about life… I am not trying to define what is good, what is bad. This is more a question of ideology, a politicalidea, than an artistic idea. Q.The name of Yugoslavia will disappear from the maps. Former Yugoslavia has already disappeared. This Yugoslavia will disappear, too. What kind of emotional feelings does that create for you? To me it creates a certain emotional turbulence, because I was born here. I believed Yugoslavia was supposed to stay and I think like many other things in the history of this region the big powers create countries. This country (former Yugoslavia) was created after World War I and after about 200 years our predecessors were trying to be (joined) together in order to preserve our culture, our history. The problem with this disappearance is that it was, I think, mostly created from outside the country, and is unfortunately not making nowadays people as happy as I was. So, I think this is clear: this time Yugoslavia was dismantled because the entire region is under the capitalist way of imposing a new history. And it was done much too aggressively, against what this country used to be. So, I cannot say that I am very sentimental, because people were killing each other very much in the name of one or the other. But, on the other hand, I must say that what has been defined as the international community very heavily participates in this crime. Because, as much as at one time it was OK to create it (Yugoslavia), at another time it was not… it was not good for it (Yugoslavia) to exist on this scale. Q. as it maybe nationalism, religion, that destroyed Yugoslavia? If there was a nationalism, and it was nationalism, it was fueled from outside. I think the Western world was creating it, if not creating than at least putting oil into the fire… I was very suspicious about just nationalism being what created this tragedy. Because if you wanted to stop the war in Macedonia, they did it within two months, that much they could have done in Yugoslavia. But they did not want to, because they wanted to break it up, to make these small regions without any power. Q. What is your definition of nationalism? At the end of Word War I nationalism used to be of a kind that is today called patriotism. Q. Is there any boundary between nationalism and patriotism? My problem is I do not have strong national feelings. But, I think nationalism, which can be very dangerous, is at the same time taken as an instrument in the destruction of the Eastern world. Because what can you be if you do not have any goods and if you are poor? Unfortunately you are determined to be at least nationalist… I am not nationalist, but I am not globalist, either, because I think globalism is a kind of new form of imperialism… If you look at the statistics, and if you look from 1989 until today, from the fall of the Berlin wall, which was the change from what used to be called the Old World Order, not many people live better. So, the new conception of the world in one in which there is no nation. But then what? What is the belief, what is the idea, what is the utopia of the world? To believe that the market is the one that regulates our relationships? That is not enough. Q. You told us that somebody from outside had put oil on the fire to cause the collapse of former Yugoslavia. Why did they need to do that? Because in the projection of serious economists and historians today… for the period of transition from a communist regime to a market economy you need 20 years. They never allowed anybody to go on so long.
They, the big companies, as well as some Western countries, want to destroy
the national infrastructure as soon as possible, so they can come and buy everything very cheap. Q. You have made films about the Roma, Gypsies so many times and recently you have been appointed goodwill ambassador of UNICEF. As a hope… and I think humanity’s biggest capacity is to hope. And when you hope, you have some chances. So, therefore I wanted to help the kids as much as I can. Q. In what way are you going to help, especially Roma children? Not just the Roma, all children. I think about what I can do as a film director. I could do my best to make short movies to participate in the campaigns. Q. One very important question. How did you feel about your film “Underground” on the destruction of Yugoslavia. Who was attacking you, who was defending you at that time. Why did you leave Yugoslavia and came back? The point is that the entire story about Yugoslavia is the opposite of what we have read and what we know. If you look at the end the ethnic cleansing, the worst thing that could happen to some territories, if you look how the Western politicians were treating the issue, you can find out that some territories that are ethnically cleansed are very much sponsored by the West, because the idea of the Western politicians is not humanitarian. That is just a cover story for something that is much deeper. As I said they need the region, or small regions in which they can penetrate much more easily than if it was a serious country. So, since I see this and I know this, I must say I am standing in the center of this problem, because this problem is familiar to me from watching all over the world. The Eastern world economically is a huge one in which there are 1.5 billion people who want to come to the West to share the goods with them. And they (the West) have put the border through our country, as they were doing always in history… I will give you one statistic, look into it. Croatia is almost ethnically purified. They (the Croats) can now travel all over Western Europe, no problems. Slovenia, too. The only one that is still a mixture of various nations is Serbia and this is the worst case for them. I mean the Western world is very simple: profit above all. Q. How do you see military operations under the pretext of humanitarian intervention, such as in Afghanistan?
Certainly the opinion of any human being will be against it.
Because they are bombarding in the name of humanity, but in fact they have
their own strategic and economic interests. They know that this vicious
cycle of war, capital, profit is something that functions for 200 years. We
know that the biggest scientific achievements have been reached in the
field of the military. So, the military is a part of these operations… The change from the past is just the way, the form… They always find somebody who is very vicious to destroy him. They call it evil. But it is not because of this evil. I am very much against any type of bombardment, including American bombardment of anyone. Q. Also in Afghanistan? Everywhere… They bomb Afghanistan as a retaliation to the terrorist attack, but they do it the same way. Q. The American logic is that if they did not intervene in Yugoslavia, (former President Slobodan) Milosevic could have continued to massacre the Kosovo Albanians. How, in that case, could the international community have intervened, or helped? The international community has never intervened properly (in former Yugoslavia). The international community was supposed 10 years ago to bring the whole of former Yugoslavia into the European Union, to give credits, to give money and to help it keep going as a healthy normal country. I would not talk about massacres, because I do not believe what the propaganda is saying. I want to see the proof. I still did not see the proof of the massacres. That was the trigger aimed to bring the international community to the level it needed (for intervention). Q. Do you believe children can be nationalist?
I do not think that is possible. Q. What did you feel about the tragedy of Sept. 11?
I was very much moved, because any human tragedy, whoever did it, produces in my heart a kind of turbulence. So, I was really sorry for these people. Q. What is your opinion about U.S. unilateralism? That is a Medieval way of drawing history, in which they do not respect the law and want the rest of the world to respect the law. That not possible. Q. Why did UNICEF selected you for good-will ambassador?
Because I am a funny guy.
Biographical note: Emir Kusturica, born in Sarajevo in 1954, began his career as TV-film director in the capital of former Yugoslavia’s Bosnia-Herzegovina after having studied film-making technologies at FAMU School in Prague. In 1981, his first film “Do You Remember Dolly Bell?” won the Golden Lion Award in Venice. His other films include “Time of the Gipsies,” which earned the Best Director Award at Cannes, “When Father Was Away On Business,” winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1985, and “Underground,” winner of the Palme d’Or in 1995.