Emir Kusturica

"I was born several times, and I'm sure I was once born in Cannes."

Born on November 24, 1954 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, Emir Kusturica has made eight full-length films and two TV films. Among his many distinctions, he received two Golden Palms in Cannes for When father was away on business and Underground, and a Silver Bear (Special Jury prize) in Berlin for Arizona Dream.


Emir Kusturica was born in Sarajevo, capital of current Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although muslim bosnian, his family has orthodox Slavic origins. His father Murat, like million of other Yugoslavs, had given up his faith to become communist. Emir, their only son, also denounced Communism to become... director. Young Emir, maybe in opposition to his "good" family (his father worked for the Ministry of Information of Bosnia-Herzegovina), was friend with some "bad guys" of Sarajevo. So, his parents decided at 18 years to send him abroad to learn the cinema, at the prestigious FAMU, the school of Prague where for exemple Miloš Forman or Goran Paskaljević had studied.

Quickly appreciated, his first short films show the talent of the young student. His teacher had already noticed it : Guernica, but especially Titanic which denounces Jewish racism under the Second World War, had already made a favorable impression and he said to him: "the only thing that you will leave behind you will be your films; the end justifies the means". This sentence marked and helped him concluding his first personal projects, in particular the very risky When father was away on business, denouncing the political deportations of Communism, subject still highly taboo in Yugoslavia then, i.e. little after the death of Tito. Until then, Emir had always filmed in his own language, even making speaking the actors with their regional accents, as for better marking the pluralism of Yugoslavia : for that reason, Do you remember Dolly Bell ? is the first Yugoslav film which was not filmed in Serbo-Croatian (the equivalent of the "BBC english"). Emir films then abroad in romany for the Time of the gypsies and then in English for Arizona Dream. But at that time, Emir did not feel confortable anymore in Yugoslavia. His country was in war. The filming of Arizona Dream was even stopped several months during the strongest combats, Emir being unable to work... Following this experiment, he felt the need to tell the Westerners what was the history of his country, through his most ambitious work : Underground. With the feeling to have made his "duty", and especially the feeling not to be understood, Emir thought of withdrawing cinema (see the polemic on Underground)... but changed his mind and decided to work on a lighter subject, and make "happy ends" with his last films : Black Cat White Cat and Super 8 Stories. Optimism is visible on stage also since since Black Chat White Cat, Emir gets back with Nelle Karajlić and his friends of Zabranjeno Pušenje, group renamed under its English translation : the No Smoking Orchestra, and composes, plays and tours all around the world . The success of this tour is impressive in all the visited countries, from South America to Japan.

Emir then returns behind the camera to get back on a new big project : filming life is a miracle will last one year and half, and Emir will fall in love with the landscapes of Mokra Gora : nature has almost the leading role, with such spectacular colors. Once the film is finished, Emir starts to build there a village : Küstendorf, with the idea of opening a school of cinema, promoting local biological agriculture, receiving his family & friends... But sticked to the music, Emir links the promotion of the new film with a new world tour with his band.

In Cannes in May 2005, Emir Kusturica comes back as the president of the jury of the festival. An new honor which comes to crown an already immense work...


Let's add also that in 1982, Emir Kusturica is assistant director on "13 july" by Radomir Saranović. This film is the adaptation of a Borislav Pekić novel (the montenegrin author of the huge serie "The Golden Fleece"), and gathers Miki Manojlović, Aleksandar Berček (Veljo in Life is a Miracle), Slobodan Aligrudić (the father in Do you remember Dolly Bell ?, and Ostoja Cekic in When father was away on business), as well as Emir Kusturica himself, in the small role of an italian officer.

Emir Kusturica has also directed many commercials and played as an actor in some of his films, as well as in other director's films.

Emir Kusturica spends his life between cameras, festivals, No Smoking Orchestra concerts and Küstendorf, the village he has built in Serbia.