So I’m not sure how many people are following this at all, but Emir Kusturica was supposed to serve as a jury member at the Golden Orange International film festival in Turkey but was forced to step down after a controversy resulted after he was accused of supporting Serbian genocide in Bosnia (seems odd that this would take place in Turkey, a country that has never acknowledged its own genocide). Now I like Kusturica’s films quite a bit (some more than others) but I don’t see how such a seemingly humanistic filmmaker can be accused of supporting genocide. Kusturica has called himself an “anti-imperialist” and I think that description probably fits the politics of his films nicely (not to mention stories of him fighting Serb nationalists). I’ve read criticisms of Underground (to me, his masterpiece and one of the great films of the 90s) and have never understood why people see the film as being pro-Serb.
There are probably a ton of markers and signifiers in “Underground” that only people from the region would know and understand, and I’m sure all of those people that exist on this website (from all sides) will gladly join in this conversation and decode them for you. (Funny how “pro-Serb” is a de facto ethical judgment, as if Serbs as a collective whole are pure evil and not worth being treated as human beings. How dare anyone ever be for Serbs, in any context!)
I thought “Underground” highly overrated when I finally saw it but I do plan on watching it again. It was a bit too exaggerated and caricatured for me. Like many, I prefer early Kusturica.
I didn’t know that he was supposed to be a jury member in Turkey and that he was forced to step down. Politics..and genocide is an awfully strong word that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly, nor should charges of supporting genocide. As far as Kusturica calling himself an anti-imperialist, 1+1 also equals 2, and its pretty easy to be anti-imperialist when you don’t come from an imperialist country. Are there any pro-imperialists running around today (who would admit to being so)?
Let’s change the focus of this thread to “the politics of Emir Kusturica’s films”. Believe the tale, not the teller.
fucking commie poof! :-0
I guess people take “pro-Serb” to be pro-Milosevic which is obviously unfair but I guess that’s part of the problem during times of conflict – you are either pro one side or the other. He seems to have a more nuanced position that rubbed most people the wrong way. I first saw Underground as a teenager when it came out and I was blown away by it. I’ve seen it since and think it holds up quite nicely. I guess even if it once was overrated, it can’t be accused of that anymore since it’s hardly talked about. In fact, Kusturica as a filmmaker doesn’t seem much talked about it either (especially around this site – in fact, this seems to be the very first thread on him on this site!). I think he should be. I haven’t been impressed by any of his films since Black Cat, White Cat (Life is a Miracle, in particular, to me seemed exaggerated and caritcaturish where he seemed to approach self-parody).
Short piece on the controversy.
They mention him as a “Serbian director” now, but Kusturica renounced his Bosnian Muslim roots. He’s doing a new film on Pancho Villa with Johnny Depp and Salma Hayek. We’ll see if he can return to form.
Apparently Semih Kaplanoglu, whos Sol recently won the Golden Bear in Berlin, refused to attend or allow his film to be shown there in protest of Kusturica being there.
Some background the “pro-Serbian” controversy:
“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kusturica remains a controversial figure. The Montenegrin writer Andrej Nikolaidis, who is originally from Sarajevo, wrote a newspaper article denouncing Kusturica as one of the “biggest media stars” of the time when MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡’s war propaganda propped people who had something “stupid but patriotic to say” and made news for people who were “insensitive to human suffering, blind to their own guilt, and finally stupid enough to believe in one’s own righteousness”. Further, Nikolaidis stated: "Considering he proclaimed his dead father a Serb who bowed, and himself, Emir, an “Orthodox Christian”, he easily chose “his own” in the war in Bosnia. He recognized them in KaradÅ¾iÄ‡ and MladiÄ‡. He wasn’t there to fire cannon barrages on Crni vrh, Bjelave and BaÅ¡ÄarÅ¡ija, but whenever he could, with his artistic and media get-up he provided them an alibi for every killed Muslim who didn’t want to admit that he was originally an “Orthodox Christian”." The journalist supported his claims by quoting Kusturica’s numerous pro-MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡ public statements as well as with photos showing Kusturica hugging Jovica StaniÅ¡iÄ‡ (chief of MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡’s secret police, today tried for war crimes in Hague), Milorad VuÄeliÄ‡ (head of MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡’s propaganda) and Zoran LiliÄ‡ (at the time the regime’s puppet president).
Kusturica subsequently sued Nikolaidis for libel, and the court in Podgorica, after a questionable trial, awarded him 5,000 Euros in damages. The trial provoked a petition organized by the Bosnian Writers Association, calling for the recall of the verdict, because they felt it denied basic human rights (of free speech), as they feel that Nikolaidis was merely publically saying what everybody who lived in Balkans during the nineties already knew, i.e., that there had been collaboration between Emir Kusturica and the regime of Slobodan MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡. The petition was supported and signed by prominent intellectuals and many students from former Yugoslavia and abroad. They saw it as an act against contra-lustration and promoting the truth about war. About such acusations Kusturica recalls a small episode of when an American journalist grilled him at Cannes when he made Underground, about why he hadn’t made a film attacking MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡, when Kusturica replied: “Have you ever heard of metaphor?”.
On ÄurÄ‘evdan of 2005 Emir was baptised into the Serb Orthodox Church as Nemanja Kusturica. The baptism took place in Savina monastery near Herceg Novi, and his godfather was Vladimir ÄŒukavac, a forester from Mokra Gora, Serbia. Among his fans this move was acknowledged as return to his Serbian roots, while to his critics this was the final betrayal of his Muslim roots (Bosnian writer Mile StojiÄ‡ (Bosnian Croat) said: “… it shall be written that Kusta was the first Orthodox Christian in modern history whose father’s name was Murat”. The director’s first name, Emir, is also overly Muslim.
This is what Emir’s says about this: “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.” "
Detractors "have labelled Underground pro-Milošević, pointing out that it presents the Balkans as some great arena of madness, in which some ingrained mentality makes violence inevitable and unstoppable. This, critics say, puts Kusturica in line with Serbian foreign policy at the time, which was to try and cloud the issue of Bosnia and make it seem somehow beyond and incapable of rational comprehension. The aim was to induce a “there’s no easy solution, let’s leave them to shoot it out”-type.
Moreover, the film’s subtitle, “Once Upon a Time there was a Country,” has been taken by many to indicate that the film is an exercise in nostalgia for Yugoslavia in its largest sense.
Critics interpreting the film in this light have some powerful extra-filmic evidence to draw on. Kusturica defended the Milošević regime in its early years in interviews, and later, although he was less vociferous in his support, adopted much the same language that Milošević was using to express himself to the press. At the film’s premiere in Belgrade, the warlord Arkan and other high-profile nationalists were invited and attended."
he is a fucking traitor, did they mention that he supported genocide of his own people?
one of the most abominable personalities in ex yugoslavia region. I take a dump both on
him and his piece of shit movies about gypsies.
I personally support the genocide of the American Indians, since it has afforded me a really nice laptop and a PlayStation game console that allows me to play RPGs from Japan. This doesn’t make me a bad person or anything. I mean, you’re entitled to your own opinion and everything, I’m just glad the Indians were all killed off so I can have internet. Seems like you have a lot of growing up to do.
“I take a dump both on
him and his piece of shit movies about gypsies.”
Quite a racist comment here, at least Elston’s was partially sarcastic. Can you please elaborate on your argument Ward and can you please distinct art and politics?
no, unspeakable tragedies happened to me during that time.
I will never give him distinction as artist, I hope his films burn with him.
“I will never give him distinction as artist”
More dose of racism, I think I’ll take a “shit movie about gypsies” than keep watching fake art of David Fincher and Quentin Tarantino.
Dimitris hates Americans. he is a racist.
I’m not the only one, the whole Bosnia is. can you blame us? :)) there is just TOO MUCH BAD BLOOD.
you can do what ever you damn like, I don’t care.
I didn’t start the hate on gypsies and your quote Elston is clearly moronic, that joke is too old now. If Ward cannot articulate himself properly and give an eloquent reason on why he wants Kusturica to be burnt (because Matt’s source has more value in it), I can’t take him any more seriously as those Americans I listed.
Art is not the same as politics, unless the gypsies in Time of the Gypsies must be burnt in some sort of hell too.
“Detractors “have labelled Underground pro-Milošević, pointing out that it presents the Balkans as some great arena of madness, in which some ingrained mentality makes violence inevitable and unstoppable”
Hardly because the Balkans is not just ex-Yugoslavia and yet those fucked up critics are acting as they are ex-Yugoslavia and only.
o boy, I haven’t said anything bad about gypsies. I see them every day as depicted in his films, as a superhero
universe too, that world doesn’t interest me much.
I’ve seen the carnage in Bosnia at first hand and what he did can never be forgiven. not only by me, but entire nation.
“I’ve seen the carnage in Bosnia at first hand and what he did can never be forgiven. not only by me, but entire nation.”
Ummm, I still don’t see why the need for art and politics to be mixed, I thought Nationalism was over…I guess not.
“I see them every day as depicted in his films, as a superhero”
Sorry to rub that on you but Gypsies aka Romany people have suffered more than any Bosnian, Armenian and Greek nation in this 20th century, their suffering dating from the Byzantine Empire’s crapfest.
But go on, be a nationalist if you want, who cares. Mingle art and politics and soon enough, we’ll all be nationalists, even worse than fascism.
I don’t give a shit man if you don’t see the need. :)))
that is how I will always see him. well, I only mentioned gypsies cause they are often theme in kusturicas films and you mentioned them now to be an asshole.
Micky, I am not trying to defend Kusturica but I’m just curious to know more about your perspective.
For example, if we understand what Matt posted, there are many debatable assertions in the material he provided. None of which makes a very persuasive case in my mind.
“Moreover, the film’s subtitle, “Once Upon a Time there was a Country,” has been taken by many to indicate that the film is an exercise in nostalgia for Yugoslavia in its largest sense.”
I think this is extremely questionable. The film’s title is certainly far more ironic than nostalgic. But even if it were nostalgic, I’ve heard Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians speak with nostalgia of the Tito era when all ethnic groups in Yugoslavia got along relatively well.
“Detractors have labelled Underground pro-Milošević, pointing out that it presents the Balkans as some great arena of madness, in which some ingrained mentality makes violence inevitable and unstoppable.”
I don’t think this is what Underground is saying. At the very least, it is a questionable interpretation.
Whether Kusturica supported the Milosevic regime at first or not is also not necessarily a sign that he supported genocide, especially given the earlier conflict with Croatia in which ethnic cleansing was occurring on both sides.
On the other hand, if the major criticism of Kusturica is simply that he wasn’t anti-Milosevic enough or that he didn’t make enough of a statement opposing the Serbian regime, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be very strong evidence against him. At the very least, it certainly doesn’t make him complicit in what happened in any way. I don’t see how he is a “collaborator” unless in the loose sense that he received money from a bad government to make a film (is that any worse than Henri-George Cluzot making Le Corbeau in France during the Vichy regime in WWII.
“I don’t give a shit man if you don’t see the need.”
Is Nationalism a need? Nationalism is an evil belief. It has never served any positive purpose, only hatred and blood.
“and you mentioned them now to be an asshole.”
Your mention of gypsies in Kusturica’s films was argued in a heavily discriminatory way, what if they’re fucking superheroes? What if his gypsy theme is common in his work? What’s your deal Ward, any other hatreds you have and haven’t revealed yet?
This is the difficulty of reading the politics of a film—one reads through (or perhaps with) his/her own politics.
Dimitris then stfu about Greece.
“Dimitris then stfu about Greece.”
Pointless comment Elston, learn how to be polite when discussing film topics, don’t mix personal insults like Vanselow and Mcbean did. Unless personal insults is your only form of communication, which means you’re just an infant.
haha, i hope your trolling man. i would never give a moments thought to being polite to you.
dimitris I’m not replyng to you no more, I must be writing in turkish.
ari, thing is he was born and raised as Muslim in Sarajevo Bosnia but chose to side with a nation
which planed ethnic cleansing of his own people. he was by them when it was happening.
every colegue and childhood friend from sarajevo has disowned him and his work.
this is my opinion of the man, you don’t have to agree with me. you can love his movies, see them
more than Avatar is seen, hell you can even fly to beograd and lick his ass clean. I don’t care!
“haha, i hope your trolling man.”
I don’t hijack threads like you’re doing now but if you think I’m “trolling”, then I have to congratulate your submissions / contributions / film taste here on this site. Bravo Elston for being such a worthwhile MUBI member, bravo indeed. Now go to your Ku Klux Klan conference.
“hell you can even fly to beograd and lick his ass clean. I don’t care!”
I suppose Beograd is evil too? Bravo Ward, bravo for your nationalistic sentiments, bravo my lad, who’s next to spit on? From the Serbs I mean…I know you can do better than this.
“dimitris I’m not replyng to you no more, I must be writing in turkish.”
Whoah, you’re more racist than I originally thought.
from the serbs, nobody else tought of to slaughter my family. so nobody
I don’t know what language I’m writin but clearly you can’t understand.
do you need cat scan?
You say this: “from the serbs, nobody else tought of to slaughter my family.”
But you have said this: “but chose to side with a nation which planed ethnic cleansing of his own people.”
YOU don’t make any sense. Choose how many you’re going to hate. A whole nation or just Kusturica.
both, I think its was evident after tonight’s match between Italy and serbia in Genoa what kind of people they are.
actually on every psorts event.
nothing makes sense to you, don’t think too much. your brain might splatter all over the room.
“both, I think its was evident after tonight’s match between Italy and serbia in Genoa what kind of people they are.”
Bravo racist, do you shave your head and tattoo swastikas on it as well?
“your brain might splatter all over the room.”
I don’t need to hate Turkey just because some militarists killed us in 1922. It’s absurd, immature and clean-cut RACIST to hate a whole nation. Support Nationalism all you want, goes to show why the whole world is crumbling down.
yes I do, but that is due to unfortunate hair receding.
you’re talking about something that was ages ago, this was not so long ago.
I had to live it through, it deeply affected me. those kind of things stick with you forever.