Emir Kusturica’s life-affirming films filled with manic energy are in a way representative of the filmmaker himself, whose creative energies spill out of the medium that he works primarily in, and flows into other art forms. It becomes musical pieces, operas and even pieces of architecture. For his film Life is a Miracle, he built a village, which was not dismantled after the film. He continues to live there, organising annual film and music festivals. When he is not making films, he tours with his music band The No Smoking Orchestra, which has scored the music for some of his works.
The 27th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) will honour the Serbian filmmaker with a retrospective of four of his films, aptly titled ‘Chaos and Control: Cinema of Emir Kusturica’.
No easy task
Securing the prints of his films was no easy task, says IFFK Artistic Director Deepika Suseelan, who has also curated the package.
“We have never faced so many difficulties in curating a package. Getting the films from his earlier years, which were made during and after the Bosnian war, were a challenge especially because of lack of clarity regarding the rights. A retrospective of his films has not been done in any festival in recent years, except the Belgrade International Film Festival. When we approached the Serbian film fund, they said it would be better to drop this plan. In the end, we managed to get four of his films for the retrospective after reaching out to several Serbian sources, including filmmakers,” says Ms. Suseelan.
One of the films to be screened is Black Cat, White Cat, his 1998 film which won the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival. The film is somewhat representative of what Kusturica’s films are known for, with its wild celebratory mood. It is almost like being caught in a carnival, being pulled from one wild ride to the next, with your head never being allowed to stop spinning. From a gangster who juggles hand grenades amid a packed party to a pig which slowly eats away a rusted car, it is filled with surreal imagery. With its smattering of Romani language in some sequences, one can also catch a few Hindi words here and there.
Another film to look out for in the package is the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning 1995 film Underground, which is spread over an expansive period from World War II to the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Life is a Miracle and Promise Me This are the other films in the package.
Kusturica has also made three documentaries, Super 8 Stories, a concert movie featuring his own band, Maradona, featuring conversations with the legendary footballer, and El Pepe: A Supreme Life, his tribute to Uruguay’s former president José Mujica and his life as a guerilla leader.
In recent years, his political positions have often landed him in controversy, especially his silence on the war-time atrocities committed by Serbian leaders, including Slobodan Milosevic, and his apparent closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin.