written by Emir Kursturica
From ‘Dove sono in questa storia’, Emir Kusturica’s autobiography
Translated from Italian to English by IFOD
In nineteen ninety-two my father died. On the same year Yugoslavia disappeared and, after the detachment of Croatia, the news of the first channel of French television started with the news:
“La Jugoslavie n’existe plus”.
Maja, Dunja, Stribor and I returned to Europe, after two years of living in America, with the idea of living in Yugoslavia and in France.
France, specifically Versailles, was the country where, after the First World War, the first state of Yugoslavia was founded.
We were all saddened by the fact that the French journalist had announced such a sad news with obvious enthusiasm; moreover, we realized that the choice to live in both countries was unattainable.
Given that Yugoslavia effectively ceased to exist we were forced to live in France, which joined the campaign against the final destruction of Yugoslavia. Was it truly an action agreement reached by Vatican, Germany and finally the USA?
This too one day will come to light. But then, by that time, it won’t matter anymore.
On the eve of the final dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in February 1992, Johnny Depp and I were in Sarajevo. I wanted to make a film festival on Jahorina, something similar to the Belgrade Film Festival.
“A Festival, seriously? You must be joking!”
“Run away from here as far as possible!” my mother said.
It seemed to me that winter, snow and Johnny Depp were my top arguments for the festival. We waited for the minister in the cold office of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina so long that Johnny got a fever.
The Minister of Culture, a certain Hasié, finally came and held out his limp hand to us. He looked at Johnny with a questioning expression, thinking it was one of my gypsies.
“Jahorina, my dear, is not a suitable place for a festival, go to the Bjelasnica instead. On Jahorina people don’t like bathing!”
The minister meant that Muslims live on the Bjelasnica. Naturally, nothing ever came of the festival. Two months later the war in Bosnia began, and the minister ran all the way off to Sweden.
My friendship with Johnny started on the large crevasse which was created by the disappearance of Yugoslavia. Filming of the movie Arizona Dream had started on the opening lines of that drama. The Red Star had become the European champion of football, and in Sarajevo Sead Susié, the brother of the legendary Safet, quarreled with the Bascarsija shopkeepers who did not hide their hate for the Star and everything related.
“Fuck their Chetnika mothers!” muttered the commerchants of central Sarajevo.
At that time, in the villages, guests of Serbian weddings practiced drawing crosses on mosques walls, while leaving for the ceremony.
As we started filming Arizona Dream, I had fallen into depression as usual. Johnny was the one who pulled me out of that anxious state. Like all the braver suburban kids, when it came to over-crossing the line, he did it, without a second thought.
He did it in the best way possible like the gypsies of Gorica, who, especially during their adolescence, went out of their way to help each other throughout difficult moments. Johnny risked much more than my ‘indians’ by helping me. The gypsies of Gorica had nothing to lose, while, back then, Depp was on his way to become the Hollywood’s highest paid star.
He made up a sudden gastric problem, to guarantee me a break of seven days of rest. I’m sure that that time frame saved the happy conclusion of Arizona Dream. But my worries weren’t finished. The making of the film was often interrupted, and I eventually ran away from the set. I became the object of a pursuit, perhaps the greatest in the history of cinema. Insurance companies, film producers, psychiatrists, everybody arrived and made assumptions on my disappearance, up to Sarajevo and in Monte-Negro.
All the while Johnny waited for the developments, refusing offers from other productions. His conviction ordeal was clear: they had to wait for the author of “Time of the Gypsies” to overcome the psychological crisis. Finally, the film was completed, and even awarded in Berlin with the Silver Bear for directing. It was well received in France and Italy too. I was so happy when Johnny made a big career later. It is not every day that the king of Hollywood behaves like an Indian of Gorica, rather than as an American of Kentucky.
The end of February was always the coldest time in Sarajevo. It was exactly that icy Sarajevan cold my mother used to talk about. Njego, Truman, both Zimié Avdo and Beli, Zoran Bilan, Cuka, Sladjo, Raka Jevtié and Zilaja Mulabdié fired up the grill in the garden of the restaurant ‘Passeggio’. Doctor Karajlie was there too. He’d brought the speakers and amplifier to make the libertarian voice of the resistance resounding against injustice.
Pasa joined them later, due to his usual Sunday walk with his wife Cuna. For city walks, he ordered her to wear the tightest pants she owned, to give maximum prominence to her curves. Then they walked, from Svrakino selo towards Marijin Dvor, where they own a shop of costume jewelry.
It was not the usual sarajevan walk in which the partners huddled together, arm in arm, aimlessly. Cuna walked before him, and he darted glances left and right, as a dog ready to bite at every step. A bad joke to Cua was enough. In that case, Pasa reacted and knocked out the attacker promptly. Sometimes it also happened that, both Pasa and Cuna, husband and wife together, beated the eager citizen who had turned on for that sculpted ass.
The Waterfront was the first and the last seaport where, as they were ships, my friends were moored. Now they sway, pushed by new and unknown storm winds. They’d been buffeted all time long, while the breakup of Yugoslavia, having taken place much earlier that it was clear, had kept on making destructive currents and tides.
Most of my friends were coming from unfinished schools, failed dreams, wrecked marriages but they weren’t unhappy. Some of them already got clean from alcohol, one died because of heroin, they had children, some were divorced, a few reached the standard of their parents, fighters along with Tito. They spent most of their time together at the Waterfront, which now somebody wants to take away from them.
In the first democratic elections, Muslims, Serbs and Croats crushed us citizens who believed that it was possible to be only citizens in the Balkans.
We were defeated, in Bosnia the people chose ethnic political parties. That was the shortcut to get to war in the fastest and safest way.
At the end of the elections the reformists of Markovié, that, as we were children of partisans we supported, were annihilated, while all known names, those who were called “city people” swore that they voted specifically for Markovié. Actually they live in fear of revealing which way the heart had led them to, in fear of State Security, but also of the new nationalistic authorities who represented the future polithic from Bosnia and Herzegovina. A building contractor of Pale, at the Passeggio, between one glass and another it was infinitely the only one to be honest. I asked him: “Who did you vote for, Vukota?”
He told me: “Brother, they locked me in that booth, my hand headed to make a mark on the reformists, Kecmanovié and Sidran, but then the heart gave the pencil the order to go from the opposite side. I made a mark on Karadie”
Life in democracy opened new wounds, while the old ones were not healed yet. The national sentiments blazed. The tension became the daily life for both those who had voted, and for those who had made no political choice, But men are men, they easily adapt themselves, eat everything and swallow everything. The Serbs did not want to break away from Yugoslavia. Muslims, as ethnic majority in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had assumed that the state belonged to them. To their disappointment, in that state did not want to enter not only the Serbs, but not even the Croats, to whom it reminded of the Yugoslavia they were from and ready to leave. Ideal situation. One appeared from outside and solved all their dilemmas. The war was already raging in Croatia. Most of the inhabitants of Sarajevo were convinced that: “oh come on, there won’t be war here, not even a chance!”
I didn’t know how wars could come to your doorstep. But in 1990 I had already experienced a meeting as a forewarning of the war industry.
Someone called Omerovié, from Visoko, one day approched me when I was buying a focaccia in the market.
“Are you Vampo’s friend?”
He was referring to an adventurer who had a bar downtown of Visoko and looked like a vampire, because he was burned in a car accident.
“Yes,” I said, so he talked with a conspiratorial tone.
“Vampo told me you’re interested in certain toys I collect too.”
I watched him in confusion.
“Kalashnikov, my friend, they rain on me.”
‘Omerovié took me to his home. We went down to the cellar where, under a military tarp, lay dozens of wooden crates full with automatic rifles. That repulsive-looking man wasn’t joking.
“We’ll fuck their mother when the time comes We will exterminate all of them, those ethnics and those Ustashi.”
“I will let you know through Vampo when I have the money.” I said, trying to run away from that place.
“Brother, you are one of us, for you it is 150 marks a piece. On the market they sell them for 300 marks.” said Omeroviè as I left his courtyard, and added: “You won’t find anything like this anywhere, brother. But don’t tell anyone! It doesn’t matter what faith we are, the important thing is that we are Muslims, ha, ha, ha!”
“I need to see Vamp, I’ll let you know when they give me my money for the movie, and then we’ll do business” I said, without the slightest intention of going back to that courtyard, and then I ran home upset.
The only place in Sarajevo where war stories lost weight and became less dangerous was at the Passeggio.
With regard to the war phenomenon, the regular customers behaved just like a bad student who admits to himself the possibility of not passing the exam. He has never studied even for a minute, but, despite this, he decided that the next day he’d have looked the professor straight in her eyes.
Even if he doesn’t know anything, he hopes he won’t fail! At the Passeggio the war never reached the order of the day and it was not seriously considered. The drunkest patron of the older generation of ours said:
“Why are you pissed off? Since the world is world
people fight and fuck each other, I can do neither thing but I’d like to at least look”
“Watching what, the first one or the second one?”
“It’s the same, there’s no difference. Just sit and watch the war. Half a liter in front of you, you order salami and Travnik cheese and you just enjoy it.
The Passeggio was owned by the bankrupt Balkan hotel company, the rich shopkeepers saw this place as their property.
My childhood friends had a different idea. None of them had enough money to buy the Passeggio, but they weren’t about to allow a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, the ex-policeman Delimustafié, to usurp their living room.
A miserable man rose from the charcoal of the poor grill
wisp of smoke, the low pressure was playing its part. Only the
kebabs proudly sizzling in their own oil.
A thread of smoke rose from the grate, the low pressure was playing its part.
My comrades held up banners: “WE DON’T SELL OUR BAR! DOWN WITH THE CAPITALISTS! THIEVES OUT OF OUR BAR!”.
All this, moved Johnny Depp, but also the cameras of Sarajevo television.
“What a proud people,” cried sensitive Johnny,
“They fight for their bar, I had never seen that in my life”.
We were like exiles in a Chekhov drama, in which the slightest possibility of a change causes fear and paralysis.
That fear ties you down like a nightmare and doesn’t let you start a new life and waking up in a new timeline, different and maybe, even better, in a different space.
This unusual strike was preceded by a meeting of the rioting patrons with the mayor of Sarajevo, Muhamed Kresevljakovié. This meeting has been mediated by a politician, a human rights advocate, the diplomat Srdjan Dizdarevié.
The meeting began with the words of the oldest patron of the Passeggio, Mr. Jozo Franjcevié.
“Mr Mayor, I want to be clear, I’m not a drunk, I’m just a bar goer, so I can tell you for sure that we, as regular customers of the Passeggio, will never give up our rights to our bar!”
The Mayor couldn’t understand which rights Mr Franjéevié was talking about.
He saw this matter, and like many others in Sarajevo, it was unsolvable, but he made no effort to understand it.
Probably in human history, never and nowhere has there been a right to the bar that the patrons would acquire by sitting there wasting time.
Kresevljakovié wanted to be a good host and asked the guests, the rioters in the bar:
“What would you like to drink, gentlemen?”
And Jozo Franjcevié said:
“A double grappa, if possible, so the girl doesn’t have to come back twice.”
Speaking with passers-by was the main speciality of my bar friends. They used to applaud the passage of beautiful girls in front of the outdoor tables; the older ones chased them like:
“Do you ladies wants to visit us for a coffee, a small juice, or perhaps a delicate spirit, a liqueur, don’t you?”
Stimulated by the presence of the illustrious guest, Depp, they raced for the craziest and the funniest joke they’ve never reached until then.
A man with a moped rushed by, all wrapped up in scarves, a ventriloquist;I think it was Cuka, and he imitated the noise of braking with his mouth at first, then he shouted:
Then the unfortunate biker turned the handlebars, and flew into a bush, while the moped crashed into a tree. Endless laughs and grind.
A cevapcic was already in Depp’s hands; he laughed out loud, while my buddy Zoran Bilan, a big man, in every sense, was pouring him a grappa and toasting:
“Come on, American, let’s have a drink, you and me!”
I gave my anorak to the frozen Johnny. After the barbecue at the Passeggio we went to lunch at Kate Govorusie 9a. My father served us his “Bosnian pot” and during the meal he spoke in English. It was a relief for my illustrious guest, as he had just spent whole hours as a silent movie actor. I asked him if he would like to rest and stay in my parent’s house after lunch.
I took him to an appointment with a parquet installer at 1 Petar Preradovié street.
Is it inelegant to bring a distinguished guest in an apartment not finished yet?
Maybe yes, but not even my Senka had been able to stop me from satisfying my tremendous need to share beautiful things with the people I love.
Later I noticed that also Dunka and Stribor, when they see a good movie, a great scene, they can’t help but share that experience with loved ones.
During lunch Senka had asked me “Why do you torment Johnny? Let him sleep , he needs to rest.”
While Johnny stared in confusion at the chinese carpet wrapped in a nylon under the table and looked questioningly at me, I laughed and I said:
“This is how my mother fights against the quick and easy deterioration of valued objects”
Johnny said: “Wow”
We went to my new apartment. We blew on our hand numb, Johnny went around the big rooms saying “Great man, really great”, while I was speaking with the parquet installer.
We reached an agreement, I walked the parquet installer out and I looked at the scene.. The moment I loved when I moved, and I did it a lot of times, was when everything was messy, piles of things scattered everywhere in the empty space.
From cardboard boxes, bags and cabinets put together slightly inclined the objects appear and look at a straight man in his eyes.
Until you don’t touch them, it seems to look at them for the first time.
It’s the same for the photo stored in the boxes of shoes, and since life already lasts a long time, there are many more of them than we need.
You reach out to grab one or two, and they start slipping away from your fingers and falling all over the place, they run away like the events that disappear or are hidden from your gaze. The encounter with that wanted mess is very exciting and everything would go well if the man weren’t cursed.
When he decided to look away from these things, they came back as if pulled by some unknown force.
You always find the unwanted object, and then one regrets not having thrown them away in time.
First page of “Vox”, on it a caricature with Ivo Andriè impaled on a fountain pen.
Johnny bent over this page and said: “It looks like a commercial for a horror movie.”
I didn’t answer, but I remember when it was published, I saw that image as a confirmation of the comic scene with the nearby Velinka. But now it wasn’t about the scene in which the nearby with a big butt falls to the floor and said “…when you remove one leg from a Bosnian tripod, all go fuck yourself.“
Now it was hitting the common foundations with a bat, a pickaxe at the common Bosnian construction.
“This guy is our Nobel Prize writer.”
Johnny asked why anyone would want to impale a nobel prize on a pen.
“Why did they treat him like this?”
Although it seemed difficult to organize my thoughts, scattered like things in my apartment, It was just the situation that suited me the most.
When my thoughts were awake and scattered in the drawers of my brain, it was easiest to manage them.
It wasn’t difficult for me to explain who was the Nobel Prize and why he was impaled on a pen.
“This picture is inspired from a brutal scene in which a character of the novel “The Bridge on the Drina”, Radisav, is impaled because he destroys at night what the masons build during the day. The construction of the bridge doesn’t progress, and they eventually catch Radisav in the act and impale him.
This happened during the Ottoman rule in the Balkans and the construction of the bridge was funded by Mehmed-pascià Sokolović, of Serbian origin, now an influential Turkish subject, a wealthy leader. The bridge is his worthy foundation.
The descriptions of the torture of Radisav represent in our literature the most terrible pages of naturalism.
Andrić is my hero. Born in Croatia, Serbian by vocation. He was the major loser in the Balkan. He is a good writer as Thomas Mann, and when a small place has an author of such greatness, it is a sign that, at least in something, he has the same value with his larger European brethren.
His biography says that Andrić was a member of the Young Bosnia organization, which organized the assassination attempt on the heir to the throne in Sarajevo.
He wasn’t directly involved in that story.
He received his doctorate in Vienna and this is one of the reasons why the Bosnian Muslims hate him.
In his argument he writes, among other things, that during the Turkish occupation the spiritual life in Bosnia developed only in the Orthodox monasteries.
Andrić had been ambassador of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Tito didn’t love him but never touched him, he left him in his place in Yugoslav literature.
No one knew our people better and no one reached Andrić’s level in demystifying the Balkan man. He was the only one who fully understood that dramatic triangle: Islam, Catholicism and orthodoxy whose loves are, as he wrote, so far away, and the hates so close.
Muslims looked to Istanbul, Serbs to Moscow, and Croats to the Vatican. Their loves were there, while their hates, those were here, between them. In a word, a genius.” “And this magazine, where does it come from?”
“From democracy. It was hard to control all those who by name and surname belonged to the Muslim ethnic group. They persecuted the lost sheep. They kept attacking Sidran, the writer for my first two movies. The Nobel Prize impalement is a warning to Sidran: you’ll end up like this if you don’t stop eating pork. They did the same with me. At the end they silenced Sidran, but not me, for my weakness but also because I no longer lived here.
Even before the elections, Vox declared that Serbs would live in Islam as second-class citizens. The humor of these young men brought a smile to the face of the President of Bosnia, Alija Izetbegović.
“You cannot call it funny!”
“Even I didn’t think it could be called funny to write that someone, of another faith and another ethnicity, will become a second-class citizen in the new state.”
“It’s scary, man!”
“President Izetbegović had himself photographed for propaganda purposes with the magazine ‘Vox’ and with Andrić impaled on the pen; he held this number of the newspaper in his hand and said smiling: ‘These young people are joking in a nice way …!’
I wondered how this joke can be funny for captains,colonels and the generals of the Yugoslav army. Because if an arms dealer, an Omerović, resold the Kalashnikovs and pampered them as if they were babies, you can only imagine how tenderly the Serbian generals and soldiers spoke to the cannons, tanks and bombs. Or even worse, how tenderly they would speak to their weapons. There were plenty of them, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the fourth largest arms manufacturer in the world.
“I did not know you have such a big production of weapons!” “Me neither. I was just told this a few weeks ago!”
I made coffee while examining the various objects, and the light of the sudden winter sun filled the living room. Johnny looked at the hundreds of photographs that slipped from his hands; he collected them, he was curious, and from time to time he asked me: “Who is this person in the picture?”. The light, together with Johnny, reinforced the charm and airiness of the apartment. Its greatest beauty was given by the windows opened to the south and east.
On the southern side, the Trebević mountain descended steeply to the Miljacka river. On the other side, the huge space of the park opened up. Behind, the Orthodox church and, to its left, the Catholic cathedral, could be distinguished. The Clock Tower could not be seen, but it could be heard well. The only square of the city stretched before us. It was the only point that made Sarajevo resemble the Renaissance cities of Europe.
The very beauty of that apartment and its surroundings prompted us to start a new life in our hometown, in spite of friends telling us it was irresponsible to return from America to an area that the CIA believed was seriously threatened by war . Given that life is short, perhaps we prefer to dismiss the idea of war in the name of ephemeral but more pleasant feelings. In fact, if this were not the case, the entire planet would have to move to America, since there is never war there. Or, the entire planet should become America, either to escape the war, or because we all want to be equal to the Americans. By the way, people still prefer adventure.
“To be honest, I’d rather live where I have to escape a grenade than in Mamaroneck, where loneliness kills me,” Maja told me. She preferred to return to her homeland rather than living a life in Westchester County, New York. Maja’s idea was close to mine; according to her, American solitudes, like the absurd ones in Carver’s stories, were a more difficult psychological adventure than a life full of unexpected events, including the possibility that someone would knock on your door and shoot you in the head. I watched characters by Andrić go by in a parade, from the window of that apartment, except that the moving trait of life in common and friendship did not emerge on that esplanade.
There was no spirituality and not even that humanity as at the Passeggio, which was capable of heating the entire suburbs of Sarajevo. Right under the window, due to its proximity to the Svjetlost publishing house, the representatives of the Bosnian elite passed pompously, quoting Andrić; I gave them the name of Tutumrak, ambiguous people with obscure purposes. All three ethnic groups had their tutumraks, which were supposed to prove that Andrić was wrong in saying that the loves of the three confessions were so far away, while the hate was right under their noses. Now the tutumraks were crucified between the past they had come from and the new times that had imposed democracy, but also nationalism.
The action of the tutumraks in the new ethnocentric democracy should be the saving formula against war. Poets, reviewers, editors, academics, television hosts, singers, pop music composers, had never had the same influence and importance in Sarajevo as that of the crude shopkeepers, Muslim religious leaders, popes and butchers. Their associations and academies, in terms of power and influence, had never reached the radiating force of religious functions, in mosques or churches, where pope and hodža acted effectively. I watched the tutumraks wandering among the bronze busts in the park in front of 1 Petar Preradović Street. They smoked, sat, measured the busts of Andrić, Selimović, Kulenović, Ćopić with their eyes and wondered: “Where am I in this story?”.
They imagined their own busts, which due to the measures of the new times – and the new times were inexorably arriving – could decorously replace those large, “worn out” characters. They had already done most of the work. They had been struggling to advance for many years. They had already reinforced the foundations of their pedestals. Pouring the concrete remained the only thing to do. The formwork had gone to the account of Tito’s now dissolved Yugoslavia, while they would make the nationalists pay for the concrete. With a little luck, someone would also order the busts for them, so they would look at the inhabitants of Sarajevo, like famous writers, with their bronze eyes. The leap in quality had been made when the councils and commissions of publishing houses and who knows which organizations and social “monsters”, had come to pay homage to the new system of their professionalism.
The only thing he was missing was a piece of work. Scribblers mostly lived that turbulent time as an opportunity to achieve a certain status and feed their weak and vulnerable little soul at any cost. Even at the cost of war. It didn’t matter the role. It didn’t matter if they had to play the part of the victims or the part of the criminals. The important thing was to act according to a protocol that satisfied “justice and the objectives of civilization”. In all of this, the greatest role was played by their “goodness”, so they called Ivo Andrić “an asshole of a man”! (May Andrić forgive me for this quote). Meanwhile they allowed him, their goodness, to be a great artist. In the decay of all values, in war, in the street, it is better to be a good man than a good artist. And this is in fact the best way to reach the desired goal through the dehumanization of a great artist. Then you are able to freely say: “Not even his literature, when you think about it better, is not a big deal”. With no real achievements in life and literature, no real success bringing change and dilemmas and drama and upheaval, they had become entangled in the web of their own immorality which, only they knew how, they called morality. Only the rodents, mice and wharf rats rejoiced in their works, accustomed to the piles of written material which, in the absence of sales, soon arrived in the cellars of the publishing houses. Those men who only pleased rodents openly called a Nobel laureate a rogue! And it all ended up again with the question of the cutpurse Kera: “Where am I in this story?”. In the case of the tutumraks the answer was: “Nowhere!”. The malevolent narcissism of these people blocked any intelligent idea for a life together, and their social action killed any hope and faith in the future.
As Johnny and I were leaving the apartment at 1 Petar Preradović Street, I saw the complete series of Andrić’s works in a box. I was hoping there would be ‘The Chronicle of Travnik’ and ‘The Bridge on the Drina’ as a present for Johnny. I only found the English translation of ‘Woman from Sarajevo’ and I told him: “This is not the best he has done, anyway,” and I invited him to read an excerpt. “Here is what my literary and philosophical idol wrote about the rabble of Sarajevo before the start of the First World War. I am afraid this could happen again” I told him, before starting to read.
“[…] Days like this must come to be able to see exactly everything that lives in this scattered city […]. Like every oriental city, Sarajevo has its rabble, […] made up of men of different faiths, habits and ways of dressing, but similar in an innate and sneaky coarseness, in the primitive baseness of their impulses. The faithful of the three religions […] are born, grow up and die in hatred, in repugnance for their neighbors of different faiths, and often go their whole lives without the opportunity to manifest that hatred in all its terrible violence; but whenever, following some dramatic event, the established order begins to totter and reason and law are silenced, […] all long-held hatreds […] erupt to the surface and , like a flame that has long sought, and finally found, food they take possession of the streets, and they spit, they bite, they break, until a force, more powerful than they, breaks them, or until they are consumed by burning and do not go out because of their anger.” “Amazing, if this represents the worst, what could be the best?”
“This,” I showed him the original Serbian version of the Travnik Chronicle, the Drina Bridge and the Devil’s Court and added, pointing to signs along the way: “But this, if there is another world up there, I would send them to study. This is the best example of the painful history of humankind”. As we went out into the Sarajevan twilight, the exact hour when the smog attacked the nostrils, the words of Andrić’s ‘Signorina’ came to my mind, and I suddenly feared that the rabble of the novel and a destructive power could take over Bosnia.
As I was reading those extracts from ‘Woman from Sarajevo’ to Johnny I did not expect him to understand. I don’t know why. I relied on an ingrained and provincial belief that foreigners don’t understand our problems. Foreigners, instead, as Johnny did, perfectly understand the genius of a great artist. For foreigners, it is only a matter of establishing whether we are on their agenda and what they should understand.
In ‘Woman from Sarajevo’ Andrić described that hand, that long after his physical death would have destroyed his torso… Soon, after the impalement of the pen in “Vox”, the Nobel laureate also suffered the worst in Višegrad. There, between the bridge and the city high school, his monument was demolished. The responsible was a certain Murat Šabanović. He belonged to the rabble described in ‘Woman from Sarajevo’, the same kind of man that appears in all the great upheavals of Bosnian history – where only the stage costume changes. It was also my turn to ask the cutpurse’s question then: “Where am I in this story?” They had destroyed Andrić’s bust, and what would they have done to me, if I hadn’t standardized my senses with the heads and ideas of the Muslim tutumraks?
I would never give up Dalmatian ham, dried in the winds of Krajina, no matter what. It never occurred to me to forget that I had received the basic doses of amino acids, from slices of bread smeared with lard and sprinkled with paprika powder, in my childhood. Given that Andrić hadn’t quite predicted all the reactions of his characters, in his literature, there was still little time left. I wondered if the world would have been better if Šabanović had read The Bridge on the Drina; would he still have decided to tear down that bust? He would be angry at the content or at the style, and…
“God, Muhamed, Senad e Sead have really grown up!”
“Don’t tell me about it, don’t rub salt on the wound!” Muhamed replies. “What are you saying, what are you complaining about, they are good boys, look at them, good and beautiful. And you, kid, how’s school going, huh?” The Kreševljaković juniors bow their heads before the authority of uncle Alija. “But yes I’m fine, it’s all right, only they’re little devils, God help me, they’re lively! And when they start joking, you can’t stop them. How do you tell your neighbor Kovačević when you argue with him?” “Please to God that your mother recognizes you in the meat pie!” says the first Kreševljaković junior, and the second Kreševljaković adds: “From the eyes, of course!”. “Here you see, if Doctor Karajlić is able to make all of Juga laugh, why couldn’t these two of your children do the same in our Bosnia?” proposes uncle Alija. “But you don’t want them to go on television?” “All right, you don’t need a TV, there are other media as well. They will finish school and then you let them play, you will not allow certain Jankovićs to continue to imitate Muslims around Bosnia and make jokes behind our backs!” It didn’t take Kreševljaković long to agree to throw his sons into the fray. “I think we have a hit,” President Izetbegović thought, like when McLaren heard the first Pistols song. The Kreševljaković youths found the editor Zornija and obeyed their uncle Alija. They made the magazine “Vox”: pages and pages on which week after week they slammed brutal images and filth, trying to destroy the fabric of Bosnia. With their vulgar allusions they wanted to dethrone the king of Sarajevan humor, Doctor Karajlić, in order to replace his mockery with stereotypes and his acting ability, comparable to that of a trapeze artist, with their new kind of comedy. That new aesthetic, created within the tutumrak intelligentsia, already heralded the storm, even if it did not make use of the front-line media, since the tutumrak had not yet completely taken over television and newspapers.
I wanted Johnny to know the hidden beauty of life in Sarajevo and took him to visit my friend Mladen Materić.
When Mladen put a Lou Reed record on the Dualov gramophone, Johnny saw an enthusiasm in my eyes, that I’m sure he couldn’t relate to the singer. He believed that listening to ‘Take a walk on the wild side’ was completely normal. I kept repeating: “Did you see it?”. He didn’t understand me. “What did you mean?” “My friends, they like Lou Reed.” “Why on earth would it be weird?” Johnny wondered, so he just said: “Yes, man, great people ”. He could not have imagined that the moments at Mladen’s house were the most beautiful images of Sarajevo. That much desired fusion of Western and Eastern, that fascinating mix of elements, coming from both parts of the world, which erases the border between Renaissance reason and the melancholy spirituality of the East.
That ballad rhythm of Zaim Imamović’s songs had poured like a wave on Mladen’s plays and my films, but also on our ideas. Once upon a time, Mladen’s inclination to spend whole hours sipping cup after cup of Turkish coffee presented the real danger of him reaching seventy in that attractive oriental pose, on a sofa, in the little cafe at Avdo. With the joint rolled up by Mladen, Sarajevo became a real treat. Even Skerlićeva street became bearable. Steep, and dangerously slippery in winter, dark, enclosed between tower blocks. When the first snow fell, ice formed on the asphalt, cars skidded and regularly collided. A creek furrow transformed into a road, as Andrić says. That evening we smoked, as in the past the partisans made forced marches to defeat Hitler’s Germans. It was clear Johnny had a wealth of rod experience. Suddenly I saw the cars rushing down the steep ice-covered road. Like on the editing table, I rewound those scenes an infinite number of times and watched the carambola from the beginning. As we enjoy the marijuana mist, the leaden image of our city faded. The dumpsters lined up in front of the windows of Mladen’s house gave off the smoke of burning garbage. Despite the unpleasant smell, the sight gave an inexplicable relief.
Whales, dolphins and other images, different visions created by marijuana come through the mist. Mladen came up with a story about “whales that whale”, and it occurred to me that “motes are seeds that come from Bruce Lee”. Johnny laughed, Vesha laughed too. It was infinitely comical to me not being able to explain to Johnny the state of things in my hometown. Words were of no help there. They were only attempts, interrupted by laughter, to explain what awaited us the next day. A light laugh at first, which became a hysterical reaction to reality then, which was more of an omen than a concrete element of life. Any attempt to overcome laughter and give voice to reason turned into paralysis.
After long and irrepressible laughter, only one image remained engraved in my memory. I was not sorry that I could not make Johnny understand where he ended up and how out of the ordinary that apartment in Sarajevo was where Lou Reed was heard and Bob Wilson was the god of the house. As we walked down Skelićeva, the happiness caused by the marijuana faded. Now it was just a substance in the blood, and instead of stimulating laughter, it injected moderate doses of paranoia into the brain. I showed Johnny a window and said: “The summer heat in Sarajevo is often unbearable, and streets like this one remain deserted. Imagine, then, in broad daylight, this steep street without a soul around. One day, this summer, when the July heat heralded a downpour, someone placed a gramophone and speakers on a window sill. And suddenly there was music that no one expected.
It was The Magic Flute by Mozart, and that sound spread everywhere, in the deserted and ghostly street. These people rarely hear Mozart, mostly at non-religious funerals. If someone plays Mozart in the street, he wants to get rid of a great tension; it is not just about enjoying the sublime harmony of the cosmic order that Mozart has given us”.
I am sure that my illustrious guest was amazed by my representation of the imminent war, but the next day Johnny was running a high fever and could not get out of bed. I don’t know if it was because of the cold he caught in the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or because of Mozart who had struck him with his beauty from a window in a deserted Sarajevan street, heralding the war. Perhaps the cold had penetrated the bones of my illustrious guest, undermining his immune defenses, while he sympathized with my friends who had organized the demonstration in fear that the capitalists would rob them of the bar forever.
Senka managed to reduce his fever with her proven therapy. Wraps of grappa and rosehip infusion worked wonders, and later Johnny told me several times: “Your mother Senka saved my life, great woman”. Johnny stayed in bed that day and I, for the umpteenth time, thanks to the intermediation of Mirsad Purivatra whose wife was related to Izetbegović, was invited to a meeting with the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Izetbegović was a soothing-looking man. That impression was reinforced by the pregnant daughter-in-law and her redheaded son Bakir, whom I had known since school.
When Alija was in prison for writing Islamic Declaration, with the help of Dobrica Ćosić, I organized petitions for his release. That initiative had had a positive effect on the mood of the prisoner. “Do you know, Emir, that in the past we Izetbegović declared ourselves Serbs? Belgrade is closer than Zagreb for us” Alija told me, while her daughter-in-law served us coffee with rahat lokum. “I didn’t know that, interesting,” I said, and added: “We all laughed at comedian Čkalja’s gags, we loved his humor. “But she’s not that bad!”, my mother used to say about Nela Eržišnik trying not to offend her. “Only, now, when you look at how the Serbs behave with the Albanians, it is completely clear to me how we Muslims would fare in a common state!” That was his reaction to an agreement between Muslims and Serbs, already signed by Milošević, which Zulfikarpašić, head of the more moderate and more European party, also wanted to sign. “Yes, but, put yourself in their shoes, the territory is important, the monasteries, the legacy of Prince Lazar, it’s serious…” I said, more as a lawyer for Yugoslavia than as a defender of the Serbs. “But that has nothing to do with it, Emir, that is just Serbian propaganda. It’s not true that the Albanians are kicking them out, it’s just the population explosion, believe me, no one has the plan to kick out anyone else.” Even Izetbegović’s son tried to persuade me, to make my firm convictions waver.
I remembered Bakir Izetbegović from high school. At recess he disgustedly removed the würstel from the sandwich, and with a relative grimace he carried that “filth” through the whole canteen, and threw it, with a theatrical gesture and an inevitable “pfui”, into the garbage can. When, because of his reddish-blonde hair, they called him “Hey, Yellow” he tried to be witty: “I’m not yellow, I’m green!” he said, alluding to his strong Islamic orientation. “Okay, but how are we going to teach Kosovo Albanians to pay for electricity? And is anyone collecting taxes on those big land transactions?” I asked. “As far as I know, the insurance companies and the most important state institutions haven’t worked there since the time of Tito. It’s not just Milosevic’s invention.” Izetbegović looked down at me and explained something important to me: “I think that, don’t get me wrong, you do too much philosophy. Now is not the right time, we have to reflect on important things” continued the president, and like a true actor he paused, just long enough for the following sentence to have its weight: “You know, Emir, the Serbs will no longer have many generals in Bosnia. They’ll have to get used to that.” He spoke to me, assuming that everything would be referred to Dobrica Ćosić. He thought he had a decisive influence on Milošević.
That calculation turned out to be wrong soon. I jokingly told him: “Okay, if Bosnia and Herzegovina is a civil state, then it is logical that the generals are professional soldiers”. Izetbegović did not display the same sense of humor as in the case of the sympathetic collaborators of “Vox”: “Of course it is logical. It will be even more logical when they will be Muslims too!”. If I had continued this conversation in a sincere way, the confrontation would have been inevitable. “But it’s not the case that a guest in someone else’s house does dirty things” I thought, but I also continued to insist on the fear of war. Izetbegović said: “We will see, we will first try all the peaceful ways. But if we have to fight, we will fight. You know, I’d rather settle with the Serbs. I would agree to transfer ours from the regions where we are the minority and Serbs the majority by bringing them to our majority territories. The same would be true for the Serbs. May ours live with ours, and theirs with theirs, and peace in Bosnia!”.
How could he only imagine moving entire populations, when the most common school bus wasn’t able to go on a school trip without scandalous flaws in the organization? For Izetbegović, Turkey was a great inspiration. I believe that the idea of the transfers was suggested to him by some historian, following the example of that well-known episode in Turkish history, the population shifts of 1922. The Turks from the eastern Greek islands had been transferred to Smyrna, while the Greeks stayed there. So in two days that great transmigration was completed, while we received the Greek underground music, the rebetiko, born in those sad circumstances. I don’t think that Izetbegović knew that in 1922, in just two days, three hundred thousand Greeks had died. I asked him if he feared war. He replied: “I only fear Allah, but I believe that there is also a peaceful solution for my and other peoples”.
I don’t know if it was the condition of the faithful that gave Izetbegović security, while his history as a martyred convict had created his charisma, thanks to which he finally took the helm of Bosnian politics from the hands of comrade Tito’s spineless communists. For many years now the sons of communism had looked like the maître of failed hotels, and certainly not like people capable of leading a community. The only one of them who had the chance to become a political leader for the approaching stormy times was Fikret Abdić. Author of the economic miracle of the Bosnian Krajina, then victim of the Bosnian communists, punished because of his significant successes, in the various political upheavals he had moved to the SDA – the Bosniak nationalist Democratic Action Party -, becoming a member of Izetbegović’s party without knowing what awaited him. At the beginning, he probably dreamed of renewing the Agrokomerc, and with that goal he had participated in the elections for the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, convinced that, however things went, he would revive the economic life of his Krajina. In the first democratic presidential elections, the SDA was headed by two candidates, Izetbegović and Abdić. And, miraculously, Abdić won big, with many tens of thousands more votes than Izetbegović. Thus Bosnian Muslims had given preference to the man who represented their living link to the well-being and emancipation they had enjoyed in Tito’s Yugoslavia. They had not supported Izetbegović, the representative of clerical Bosnia, to the same extent.
In fact Fikret Abdić could have become the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it didn’t happen. After the electoral victory, at the SDA meeting in Tešan, Abdić had to accept, in the name of party discipline, the fact that the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina would not be him, but Alija Izetbegović. This was communicated to him by the legendary Čenga, secretary of the SDA, while in the hall sat, not only the party leaders but also a large number of armed young men dressed in black, with dark glasses, who had arrived for that occasion from Sandjak. The Bosnians could only believe that Abdić was not interested in the presidential office at all. That was false. We have seen it during the Bosnian war, when Abdić created his own army and entered into armed conflict with Izetbegović, becoming his fiercest enemy. He was not the only one who wanted to avoid a war with the Serbs at all costs. Adil Zulfikarpašić, a politician of the more moderate Muslim current, had signed a non-aggression agreement between Muslims and Serbs with Milošević, but that document was thrown away by Izetbegović. My conversation with the president suffered the weight of long pauses, which is why the hosts wanted to restore good humor.
Maybe they called me here to tame me and bring me to their side, not to scare me, so I tried to explain the change in mood of the two Izetbegovićs, father and son. While Alija, Bakir and their pregnant daughter-in-law recounted episodes related to Hasan Čengić, secretary of the SDA, of whom Doctor Karajlić did a surreal imitation, my thoughts temporarily flew away from the apartment of Izetbegović’s son. Inside of me I was trying to unravel a mystery, to answer a question, merely, whether the president’s strategy was really nothing more than a crude two hundred year old Balkan political recipe. In that strategy, a Little Brother from the Balkans obtained guarantees from a Big Brother, coming from the big world, generally from the West, and could call him for help “if someone had touched him”. Here is the development of that strategy in a hypothetical tavern brawl dramaturgy. In a Balkan tavern, two quarrelsome tables start a war when, at a table where a group of bald young men are sitting, a blond boy suddenly arrives. The latter takes a glass of water from the table and throws it into the face of one of the young men, ready to fight. The watered-down young man, without thinking about it, gives the little one a slap in the face, and approaches the table from which he came the latter.
The little one runs out and in the meantime the watered and his company give her a thrashing to the young people sitting at the provocateur’s table. Just when we think the story has come to an end, the little provocateur returns to the tavern, bringing with him some two-meter tall guys. They end up beating the group that seemed to be victorious in this tavern war… Mirsad Purivatra was the son of a Bosnian designer of Muslim ethnicity. A fan of the Sex Pistols, he got a place at the Academy of Theater Arts after he brought twenty meters of coaxial cable to Mladen Materić’s production of Eighty Ball. The Obala theater was born out of the need of the inhabitants of Sarajevo to have a place in our city too where alternative art genres and a vital theater could be born that would distinguish itself from the lethargy of the bourgeois one. Among those bourgeois was also Purivatra. His passion for punk music, his affected European look and black clothes, were decisive in Mladen’s choice to welcome this punker into our ranks.
Mirsad’s engagement sounded good, even if he wasn’t a good organizer. As the war approached Mirsad expressed less and less of his belonging to the punk movement and more and more lost his rebellious character. Mladen Materić had taught him to appreciate Beuys in painting and Wilson in the theater, while on several tours of the Tattooed Theater performance Vesna Bajčetić had passed on to Mirsad her delicate observations from art and life. After discovering, just before the war, that the Sanjaks weren’t exactly close to Beuys and Wilson, Mirsad quickly forgot the greats of the alternative scene. The same happened with painting. In the first days of the war he organized painting groups and exhibitions, but when he saw that films were a more profitable commodity, he turned himself into director of a film festival. Even before the war he had begun to appreciate more and more his father’s work as a designer. Mladen Materić and Purivatra, on various tours of the Academy’s Obala theater group, had maintained friendly relations, even talking about the war. Mladjo often pointed out that the Serbs are a people fighting for autonomy and for which, for this, there is nothing left but to fight: “That is the only small people that has paid for its survival with millions of male heads. They have been at war since the time of liberation from the Turks, without asking the cost, to defend national interests. Serbs do not accept masters of any kind.”
At the large gathering in Foča organized by the SDA and where there were, as the newspapers wrote, more than 100,000 people, part of the crowd had begun to utter threats, waving sabers. Many attendees, wearing Handzhar division uniforms, in remembrance of when Bosnian Muslims had aided the SS in their failed attack on Moscow, now waved their sabers and threatened revenge against the Serbs, for the Muslims whom the Chetniks had massacred in WWII . They said they were ready to retaliate for the massacres. “You mustn’t provoke the Serbs so much, you’ll end up fucked, Miro!” Mladen Materić told Mirsad Purivatra. “If we get them from the Serbs, there’s a remedy for that too” said the other, and he told him my story about the tavern! In the distribution of roles made by Purivatra, in the next episode for the Serbs a good dose of beatings from the Americans were foreseen. So I too finally understood why the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović, seemed not to care at all about the mass of armaments in the possession of the Yugoslav army.
Everyone was already rattling their guns, but the president didn’t look like a man afraid of war. Omerović was increasing his reserves in the cellar, and the demand for weapons in the Balkans had grown everywhere. We all knew what was kept in the depots of the Yugoslav army. At the end of my interview, I told Izetbegović that that fear and hatred had been described beautifully by Andrić in the story Letter from 1920. He didn’t like to hear it, and Andrić’s name caused an imperceptible change in his face. While she was silent, she resembled Darinka, an impulsive neighbor of Visoko. When she had to say my father Murat’s name, Darinka would say to Maja: “Maja, when will our friend come?, I don’t like saying his name”. When I pronounced Andrić’s, President Izetbegović had the same expression as Darinka, only he said nothing. All the same, but different. I think that in that Izetbegović, behind a calm mask, there was a vindictive nature, skilfully camouflaged. Alone in the hall, as we left his son’s apartment, putting on his shoes, he could no longer hide his feelings: “Is it true that, by God, you want to film The Bridge on the Drina?”.
I tell him: “I thought about it, but it costs too much, it’s a gigantic production”. And he went: “What are you doing, are you crazy? Andrić’s literature is full of hate, he was nothing but the bastard son of a janitor”. I left his son’s house knowing that Izetbegović could not be my president. No one has ever won a Nobel thanks to hate, but it wasn’t the reason why I left. I left because whoever insults my heroes couldn’t be my president. The order to go to Visoko came from Paris. I had to go check out our summer house. I was happy to show Johnny our family pride. Just think, Johnny Depp in Visoko, what an unexpected gag, almost like an act of conceptual art… That house, like most of my projects back home, expressed the distance from the environment in which we lived, something similar to the effect that you get with binoculars when you turn them upside down, and you look at things that are close at hand, and you see them far away.
Through those binoculars turned upside down you had to look at the writing that characterized my films and the beauty of our little house. Neither of those things had grown like a fruit that grows on the tree nourished by the earth you trample. From that terrain came the themes. The very appearance of that house resembled an escape from an environment that had never strived for standards of beauty. The successes of my films hadn’t had an infectious influence on the artists of our environment. Nor was any cinematographic current born of it. There hadn’t been enough time. As soon as they obtained some results, the most valid Bosnians fled their homeland, above all for political reasons. Thus Bosnia remained a country without style, just like the low-class football clubs from which the most gifted elements systematically leave. Not only due to the unfavorable economic conditions: above all due to the provincialism and narrow vision of life imposed by a rogue policy of the worst kind. The need for beauty was here driven into exile, by express. It was an effect of poverty, a common social phenomenon in my country of origin. Poverty had resulted in poetry, especially in ballads. On the other hand, the middle class, as the buyer, user and creator of aesthetics, did not exist as a current social value.
All this suited only the tutumraks, who in Bosnia were a secular and deadly phenomenon. Because of the predominant ideas in the heads of the poor, the roses and the vine of the Domicelj family, Maja’s grandparents, had had the worst. These people had been brought from Slovenia by the Austrians, with the first railway. They had been brought to Visoko because the local population did not inspire confidence in the authorities in Vienna: they feared that the Turks had left a counterproductive view of time and that the Slavs had an unacceptable way of measuring it. Since then the passage of time, in a single day, had been planned differently, and since a railway had also been built, oriental customs presented a problem for the new rules that Austria had introduced in Bosnia. Time and its measurement required a radical change. Deals were no longer signed with the final formula “we’ll agree this week”. The most visible sign of that change was the railway, and the train did not arrive “in the week”, but exactly at eight, and left the station in the direction of … at fifteen fifteen. For this seemingly easy task of the new times, the functions of service leaders in Bosnia were performed by foreigners. Our good landlord and neighbor Mitar was not the only one who, in the rural manner, arranged appointments and concluded business “in the week”. Most of the population had never abandoned the “old Slavic time” and the measurement of time which is carried out with a look at the sky, and not at the clock. Neighbor Mitar had bought one of the three Domicelj houses. This had happened when the eldest of the family died. Mitar had moved to the house closest to ours and had immediately cut the roses and vines down to the roots, eliminating the flower garden that had been cultivated for dozens of years. He had said: “My old Darinka can’t see the road, she has no sight at all,” and added: “Just think how many potatoes could have been planted instead of roses.” When Maja’s father weeded the flowerbeds in front of our house on weekends, Mitar, after the fatigue of work, drank coffee where he had a good view and threw jokes at Mišo beyond the fence: “If only instead of of the roses you planted something more intelligent, with which one can survive, you would be a true judge!”
When we arrived in Visoko, Johnny, having just recovered from the flu, went to bed, tired from the tumult of events. I climbed the hillock above our house and picked an apple from a tree. There were few places in the world where earth and sky gave such juicy results. I was biting that apple, I looked at the little house below me and suddenly I burst into tears. I don’t know if it was because of my past life or because of the things I would have had to face the next day, but I was crying. Tears began to stream down my face: a few at first, then rivers. They mixed with the taste of the most wonderful bittersweet apple in the world and revived childhood memories. My tears also mixed with the earth. But that storm of my soul, that disturbance, only minimally turned into drops that ran down my cheeks. I soon realized that that long-deferred weeping was only an omen of greater and more shocking events. I was mourning my home then.
Johnny, my illustrious guest, would be the last to sleep there. That house had already burned down in the dreams of old Darinka, wife of the good neighbor Mitar who had cut down the roses and the vine. The house had burned down in the dream of Davor Dujmović, the lead actor of Time of the Gypsies. Stribor often dreamed of our cottage on fire. If it had already burned so much in dreams, what awaited our beautiful house, given the times ahead? The sound of the word Sandžak (Sanjak) had engraved itself in Johnny’s mind, and while the taxi, a few days later, was taking us from the Paris airport to the city, in front of the chapel of Saint-Jacques he asked me: “Is it connected to people from Sandzak?”. We said goodbye as friends. Johnny went to shoot Happy Birthday Mr. Grape, and two months later, from Paris, where we lived, I flew to New York, where I was to teach directing to students at Columbia University for another semester. As always, I had started three things at the same time. Like Sophocles, who weaved several actions into his plays at the same time, I edited Arizona Dream in Paris, taught directing in New York and started preparing Underground. When the plane took off from Paris for New York’s J.F. Kennedy, I saw on the television screens that fighting had begun in Sarajevo.
After the referendum on the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which the Serbs did not participate and which ended positively for those who believed in that independence, the Serbs divided the city with barricades. For me that was a strong enough warning for Senka to be transferred to Herceg Novi. As soon as I arrived in New York, I called my parents and was relieved to hear that they were together in Herceg Novi. Because of my ideas Senka would not have fared well in Sarajevo. But bigger events had begun to unfold. From New York I called Herceg Novi. Senka picked up the phone and told me: “Šiba Krvavac is dead”. “How, of what?” I inquired: the nonsense that is said in such cases. “Heartfelt,” Senka replied. “How did Murat react?” “Very bad, he won’t stop crying, I’ll pass it to you.” My father was sobbing like a baby and couldn’t stop. He could barely form broken sentences: “You know I didn’t have a brother… he was even more than a brother to me…!”. I tried to calm my father as far as possible over the phone. After my lectures to Columbia students, I often walked down Broadway.
I was heading towards the center of the city, since in the opposite direction was Harlem, where whites, with good reason, were not welcome. If I went south to Columbus Circle, the skyscrapers began, but for me the need to lift my head towards the dramatic New York sky disappeared. It only takes one failed attempt to count the floors to ensure that the next time he no longer raises his head in the air. You stop wanting to see how blocked the view is. Šiba Krvavac had meant the saving formula of my adolescence, it was the one who had infected me with cinema. Now his death had flooded the New York landscape. As I strolled, the sense of loss of hope was reinforced every time I looked at the colossal buildings. All the big cities of America look more like an exhibition of building materials than the European idea of the city. At one point it seemed to me that the suffering associated with the war would soon end. When it was announced that the Portuguese politician Cutileiro had prepared a plan, I didn’t know how to express my joy. I had the urge to go out onto Broadway and hug and kiss everyone who passed by. It seemed that war would be avoided. But the happiness did not last long. Izetbegović first signed the European plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the so-called Lisbon Agreement, but soon after a meeting with the US ambassador in Belgrade, Mr. Zimmerman, the Bosnian president withdrew his signature. The plan was rejected and immediately afterwards, on April 7, 1992, the US recognized the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that was the real beginning of the war.
My feelings increasingly resemble nightmares about the destruction of the planet. Those dreams had been evoked by my cousin Edo when he had told me the story of the end of the world in my early childhood. My dreamy nature had led me to imagine that cataclysm. I learned then that the most important thing is to see the family as a lifeline. But now that anchor had been ripped from the bottom, swept away by a wave. The survival formula while awake expressed itself as the importance of sticking together. And then what has to happen happens. The earth is cracking beneath us, the sky has been torn apart, but until the last moment there is hope. Salvation can always come if you act according to the rules kept in the safe of dreams. And, of course, if you don’t give up hope. War is not the end of the world. It is the most profitable enterprise invented by man in its long history. There are ways to win that too. Not in direct confrontations. Because if you don’t defend your family from direct danger, war is an inspiration for adventurers who have decided to get rich, but also for artists. Dreams of a community life were interrupted by reality, which soon brought into my life the greatest loss I had ever suffered. In nineteen ninety-two, on September 29, in Herceg Novi, my father died.
I came to know this in a strange way. Miroslav Ćiro Mandić, a director who had lived with us for some time in Paris, was talking to Maja. She had called me in New York to give me the sad news, and before she said “Hello” she didn’t know I was already on the line. At that moment Maja was consulting with Ćiro to decide whether to tell me immediately that Murat was dead, or whether to do it when I arrived in Paris. I lived that news in silence. I smoked my last pack of cigarettes until morning. Sometime after midnight Momčilo Mrdaković had joined me. A neurotic filmmaker who dreamed of making his first film despite his advanced age. He was the ideal type to have on hand in times of mourning. He had brought a bottle of plum brandy and poured a glass for each. Then we poured one on the ground and drank in my deceased father’s name. The next day’s lesson was postponed, on the bulletin board was written: “No class today, Emir’s father passed away”.When Stribor and I approached Norveška street 3, at the house where only my mother now lived, on the door, on the glass that led to the staircase was the announcement of death surmounted by the red five-pointed star, with the name and the surname of Murat Kusturica. That picture was just the introductory line to total awareness of my father’s death.
When someone close to you dies, time doesn’t flow as normal. And, the moment you hear that news, you die a little. Feel of less, you speak softer, you become that street lamp since
which you are not sure if it really gives off light.
Then travel up to the place of the funeral, and when you get there where you have to, for the wish you weren’t even a little dead, resume to live.
Stribor looked at his grandfather’s photo and asked: “Will there ever be an end to all of this?”
He was referring to the misfortunes that overtook us one after the other and I answered him:
“Even if it seems not, be sure he can’t continue like this endlessly”
I thought about how hard it was for Stribor. I wanted to console him, but also give him some serenity. As well as my father had consoled me whenever he had been
necessary. The most obvious occasion had been when for the first time I had seen a dead man. The way my father had dissolved the fear of death in front of my parents eyes, it resembled the ease with which the strong north wind sweeps the clouds from the sky. Later, every time that there had been a need, the memory of that event had made my vulnerable nature stronger. Death is said to be “an unsubstantiated rumor”, with the thinnest of anesthesia where the effect of the terrifying end is annihilated of human life. The fact that my father downgraded death had reduced it to the level of tabloid news, had reached me, every time and again, together with his humor and to his witty Herzegovinian nature, and gave me back courage. It wasn’t important how painfully an event had fallen on your soul. The important thing was that you weren’t just carrying that weight on your shoulders alone.
A father who makes you discover which technique you take on the weight of misfortune that has fallen on you. At what source did my father, now deceased, drink of warmth and tenderness, from which root it had grown his infectious charm, for which he was so well liked
from his friends in Sarajevo? How did it become the pillar that supported the static nature of my existential architecture? I barely remembered his parents.
Their story was the trace that for a shortcut led ceva at the source and at the dam as far as my curiosity wanted to penetrate. Murat’s father, Husein Kusturica, was a respectable
Travnik court official, a man who, with the well-sharpened pencil and half sleeves of black cloth, went to court every morning at seven o’clock. At exactly half past eight, for the whole length of the office break, came home to prepare breakfast and coffee for his lady. For Travnik, but also for Vienna, it was a pretty high standard of male emancipation.
They lived on just one salary, but there was no shortage of nothing, thanks to the diligent official Husein. He finally retired from court in Travnik.
He carefully worked the small vegetable garden under the house in the Potur mahala district of Travnik, thereby substantially decreasing expenses. It was one of the few Travnik families whose younger members went to be partisans, while the aunt Biba had already joined the skoJ,the Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia, before the war.
My father fled with his sister to the mountains at the very beginning ofWorld War II and joined the National Liberation Movement. If he hadn’t, he would have been victimized in fear of the BlackShirts who had also made flee his sister. He had accompanied Aunt Biba to the train and thought he would soon follow her into the woods. He joined the partisans and became a soldier of the First National Liberation Brigade of Krajina. In that bosnian province my father and his sister were tested from history.
There were few who were on the side of “those crazy Serbs who, again, wanted to fight against the Germans”. Even my father’s other sister Lala, was skeptical of their political activity.
Anyway he did everything to ensure that what she knew, (i.e. their pre-war revolutionary activity), did not come to the knowledge of others. The majority of people in Bosnia had not
neither tradition nor inclination for revolutionary, let alone socialist, ideas. Murat and Biba, putting on the side of the oppressed, had demonstrated their belonging to the idea of the left and renewed the history of their Serbian origin.
For this reason, at the end of the Second
World War II, they both celebrated their victory over the fascism as part of the victorious army, and not only the victory for the end of the war like the majority of people. They had always been on that side. Murat had a higher education as a student of the Jesuit Lyceum in Travnik.There, the great amount of knowledge had opened his mind, but it had also distanced him from clerical ideology which considered the occupation of the Ustashi a historical fate. Murat, while boiling eggs, often recited in Latin – Pater Noster qui es in cœlis – establishing, by means of the longer or shorter version of the Pater Noster, the cooking time of the egg: hard-boiled or soft-boiled.
After the end of the Second World War, Aunt Biba settled in Biograd, as his parents called Belgrade, the capital of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. She married Slavko Komarica who soon became a Yugoslav general consul in Switzerland. The aunt was
enthusiastic about preparing unforgettable receptions. She was happy that in her apartment
gathered such important people and to have become, next to her husband, part of a prestigious company. When she left for Bern as the wife of a consul, her joy knew no bounds. She had received a luxurious fur coat and a purse full of money, from the State too.
It wasn’t the fact that he had received a lot of money, but how much he loved to talk about it. “Our State is intelligent, it does everything so that the world has a good impression of us, and because no one can corrupt us!”,
When he remarried and settled down with Ljubomir Rajnvajn, my aunt began to wait impatiently and with love that her parents came to visit her in Belgrade, so that she could welcome them to her apartment in Terazije n.6. She arranged that first visit several times, without immediate success. Something wasn’t working, even if the distinguished Belgrade woman, employed at the Workers’ International Institute, had mailed tickets to his father and her mother more than once. She had bought the tickets with the discount allowed titles from his medal. But her mother doesn’t like the idea of walking around Belgrade in an old man’s coat! The official Hu was the one who solved his wife’s problem, like he had already done more than once before. He continued to feel sympathy for his wife’s
attitudes. He saved money to buy the grave for his wife, once dead, but these very same savings were used to buy the cloth for that coat. There was no money for the tailor, so he gave up completely to solve this problem as well.
My father learned about the matter from a letter which arrived at his address in Sarajevo, together with the package that every month, his parents sent him from Travnik.
In the letter the father apologized if they had not been able to send more than a bottle of oil, two kilos of cheese of Travnik and two kilos of prunes. The truth about how that coat was sewn and how the Kusturicas finally visited Belgrade is still unknown. They say the lady
Kusturica went around all the apartments in the house of Terazije no. 6, door to door, drank coffee with all the lords and won their hearts in a flash.
“What a queen my mother was!” my father once told me. When the war ended, the female anti-fascist front embarked on a program to have the veils of women unveiled and, looking for a stronghold among Travnik families, contacted Biba to find a suitable person to carry on that propaganda action. The choice fell on the mother of partisans Murat and Biba Kusturica.
My grandmother communicated in a persuasive way to the other women, all the reasons why a clean sweep of the dark past had to be made. It wasn’t difficult, because her family of origin were the Avdićs who, like the Kusturicas, were Herzegovese, and also like them the Herzegovese was at war with mankind. After the convincing lesson on the elimination of the veil, the lady received huge praises from the progressives of Travnik but mostly from his son and daughter. “We should elect you, Mrs. Kusturica, as a mayor of Travnik, there would be no harm!”
However, the next day the business of my grandmother took a different turn. She went to the market with her face covered!
When her daughter learned of this unexpected development, she rushed to send a telegram from Belgrade to her brother. “What did you do, mom?” my father, who had immediately rushed to Travnik, asked. She answered:
“I don’t know, but for some reason it looks nicer to me when you only see a woman’s eyes”
“But you can’t do such a thing, ma’am, you have received a job from the Party,” my father told her:
“Oh for the love of God, such a gesture cannot be done all in one! Sometimes you wear it, sometimes you don’t. That’s how it’s done!”
Actually, my grandmother was leading another battle.
In her immediate neighborhood, in the noble house of Bey Vehbija Šahinpašić, a girl of her age opposed the removal of the veil; since they both fought for prestige in the borough, my grandmother feared that because of that veil she would lose her influence over the women of the street forever. And that when the neighbors got together to drink coffee, she couldn’t continue to lead the way. Hence her choice of compromise “you bring it a little, and sometimes you don’t”. The night before her death in Koševo hospital, she asked my father for my pillow, so that she could die leaning on it.
My father died, together with his beloved country. He left in time not to see how the house he built and took a greater part of his life, dissolving.
The foundations of that house had long since been destroyed by foreign intelligence services, by uneven historical accounts among Serbs
and Croatians, but also by the tutumraks. The latter had left the elite positions of the people to which he belonged, handing them over to specialists for destruction of the foundations, while they always returned to the question which is the title of this chapter.
Six months before my father’s death, Adulah Sidran was on a study trip to Paris. He spoke of the unbearable situation in Bosnia and about the fact that the peace that exists in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, could be maintained, only from the United Nations, according to him. The partisan of the 1st National Liberation Brigade of Krajina told him angrily: “In the Second World War I fought in the woods to drive the foreign out of my country, and you will bring the United Nations to Bosnia?” Sidran then exposed to him some theories but his interlocutor did not agree to, so he replied:
“On March 11th, with the referendum for independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, actions of war started. If you have a third of the population that ignores the referendum and does not want to leave Yugoslavia there will be war in Bosnia”, and Sidran said to him: “However, the will of the majority of citizens of Bosnia have been expressed,” but Murat
banged his fist on the table and concluded the speech on the Bosnia and Yugoslavia:
“Yugoslavia was created in blood, and in blood will dissolve, remember my words!”
Now I had to grab something from that basin where my memories lived to cheer Stribor, lightening at least a little the weight of the death of his grandfather. As often in life, the opposite happened. It was the fourteen-year-old Stribor who tried to comfort me. As we rushed up the stairs to via Norveska n. 8, he hugged me and said: “Everything is like an apple. First it blooms, then the fruit that grows, draws juice from the earth, becomes an apple which, from a small green fruit, acquires volume and color. The sun floods it, the rain caresses it, it hangs on its stalk wet with dew. Then the summer passes,and the apple keeps on staying attached to the tree, by the petiole. Autumn comes, the fruit freezes from the cold, the apple always shrinks more and at a certain point, on the threshold of winter, suddenly the petiole weakens, the shriveled fruit falls to the ground and the apple is gone”
Stribor wanted to tell me that death is a natural thing.
Only when I entered the small Herzegovinian apartment and hugged Senka did I realize that I would never see my father again.
The death of a loved one turns into a big grief only when you are close to the most intimate witness of the deceased. To the one who becomes the strongest symbolic bond, between you and the deceased. As he died, my father cried out: ‘Senka, Emir, I’m leaving you! and we were in pain because he would never come back!
Stribor burst into tears when he saw how much Senka and I mourned Murat, but I found a way to console my child:
“Your grandfather didn’t die, life sent him to the other world to rest his goodness,” I told him, and continued to cry.
We bought a house in Normandy with the money we earned with Arizona Dream. There were no more dilemmas: life in America was our past, and since Sarajevo we had said goodbye forever. I think that we would have come to this conclusion even if it hadn’t been the war. Big work commitments impose a change in the way of life, habits change, and once you have tried Japanese food and the sources of sustenance are far from your city, the perfume of some cevapcici can never make you go away once again.
Our new big house in Normandy was a copy of the cottage we had in Visoko, with the only difference that this Norman one was a real construction. If Murat had been alive, he would have shown around, proudly, to Herceg’s Novi pensioners, the photos that were supposed to confirm the size and number of rooms owned by the family of his son.
In this house Maja arranged the living space with perfection.
Previous styles were completely changed, in favor of a new one. When Johnny Depp entered that house, said: “It’s fine, it seems to be in Visoko”
Our Norman house eventually became so pleasant that when you sat for a while and watched outside from the window, you didn’t need to talk. You were fully captured by sublime feelings. Johnny Depp felt it better than anyone.
From that silence he would create his first child. In fact, while we were in Montenegro, in that house, Lily-Rose, the daughter of Johnny and Vanessa was conceived. I became her godfather later.
In nineteen ninety-five the Dayton Agreement was signed in Paris, and that was the end of the war in Bosnia. Milošević, Tudjman and Izetbegović signed it.
The same characters who had brought us into democracy, and soon after in war, led us to peace. I understood that the war that had just ended confirmed the old thesis of Andrić; according to him, our conflicts do not resolve our problems, but only create new ones, which we will have to resolve it again and with new wars.
That same year Underground won at Cannes and I got my second Palme d’Or. This time my film did not receive the Palma in an ideological context similar to that of nineteen eighty-five, when Dad… was on a business trip and had completed the image of the destruction of the communist Eastern European regimes. If I had known they would have passed me off as anti-communist currency, I wouldn’t have shot a film like this. Probably, those who in nineteen eighty-five awarded me the prize think the same . When they see which politician I transformed, I am convinced that they would like me to return the Palm.
Underground was part of a different mythology.
The cinematic aesthetic made my lucky one shine as a festival star.
It was the same glowing gadget that in the beginning,had been stuck to the sooty sky of
Zenica, and now he had simply moved from Venice to Cannes, then Berlin and elsewhere.
I think the members of the Cannes jury were especially favorable to me for the great emotion created by the screening of Underground to the Grand Palais, the main hall. A film critic declared that I was a direct descendant of the god Dionysus. Of course he exaggerated, but who knows what if forensic doctors could demonstrate today. I wanted to thank him for those compliments and prove I was modest. Unfortunately I was stupid, but I didn’t miss it strength to admit it.
I said in French:
“I am, in reality, the son of the father of Dionysus”
He looked at me confused and asked:
“If you’re not Dionysus, then are you his brother?”
“No,” I stubbornly insisted on my view of things
“I am the son of the father of Dionysus.”
The critic looked at me curiously, then, he laughed and said:
“It’s nonsense but it sounds good, be as you want.
Now, I hope he understands!”
Later I brooded on this point for a long time, without coming to a conclusion.
Of course I couldn’t; I swallowed together sedatives and beer.
These two things cause the brain to aspirate to double, but on that road reason disappears. Forme was the only way to get through the hell of the festival. Finally I stopped going back to that nonsense and said to myself to agree with the French critic. It sounded good.
The decision to award the prize to me, on the other hand, was due to a deep melancholy of the members of the Cannes jury. They were sad because Buñuel, Fellini, Bertolucci were gone and a man like me, at the end of the twentieth century, made you think of the past. Now it’s completely clear that two external elements have influenced mine destiny. I don’t go into the analysis of inner motives; I’d end up somewhere near Dostoyevsky, and this is not fancy.
The problem is that no one wants to hear those reasons, in which Dostoevsky was an expert. The depth of the human soul, a substantially related theme
to existence: who can ever care today? The genius of Dostoyevsky is not as popular in Russia as he would be. There they are more enthusiastic about Tolstoy and Putin, as the “Time magazine!” , where critics put Tolstoy in first place, while Dostoevsky does not even figure among the hundred greatest writers in the world.
It’s not the first time “Time magazine” and the Russians have made the same mistake.
In my case it was clear that I had realized my father’s wish.
“You don’t need to become a Fellini, but be at least one De Sica”.
That’s how it went, even though my real goal was not to be ashamed of what I did. Nothing more than that. It had probably been decisive for my cinematic success. In life and in the cinema my stubbornness inherited from Senka and his determination to prevent the neighbors from stealing the light bulbs of our lift at 9a Kate Govorušić Street, keep me alive. It was like living in that past, when my mother practiced the art of gluing plugs onto light bulbs to perfection.
My photo appeared in Time magazine, but the article’s critic Richard Corliss was not talking about the victory of Underground.
The reaction of the “Time” reporter was similar to the one produced by Do you remember Dolly Bell?, fourteen years earlier in Venice. In September of the nineteen-one hundred and eighty-one, in a correspondence from the festival, on the same magazine was written:
“The winning film comes from Nowhere and that is directed by Nobody…” Not many words were spent in the film. Colonial joke, free from bad intentions. Apart from the fact that it was colonial. That was the language of cool culture of the West. In the meantime, things had changed.This time in Cannes, in 1995, the film was directed by Someone. It could be deduced from the critics, even if some denied that fact. I was among them too.
Luckily not very often, I was doubtful when someone claimed that in the meantime I had become Someone.After Underground’s win, not much was written on the film, since the collective brawl on the beach in front at the Hotel Martinez became a more interesting topic. A director celebrated his triumph by participating in a mega- brawl! They emphasized my “wild temper”. Indeed, as an old Indian saying goes, when you knock at bare fists, then it’s only right that they call you wild and barbarian. But when you drop tons of bombs, including nukes, you’re a civilizer running his own homework.
That evening in 1995 I had a Dionysian homework. From the screen and the room where it had been assigned to the Palme d’Or, Underground had transferred its character to the sandy beach of the Martinez.
At the Grand Palais, my Greek colleague Theo Angelopoulos shone. He was convinced that tonight would be among the winners of the festival. He was too self-absorbed.
I used to watch on video as she walked up the red carpet. His actors, together with members of the team, were held by the hand and as a folk group they walked solemnly towards the Golden Palm. Pathetic. The fact he had only obtained the Grand Prix of the festival was a tough one blow for Angelopoulos:
“I had prepared the speech for the Palme d’Or, but not for a special prize, and so I have nothing to tell you…” he said then to the ceremony. That misanthrope, two days ago, wondered in the “Herald Tribune”:
“Why here, in Cannes, do they love that Kusturica so much?
In his films people do nothing but eat, drink and dance. What kind of cinematography is that? Where did he flee to think, what about reflection?”
With his films, the Greek tried to be cool. He acted as if he had been born in Heidelberg,
and not in a suburb of Athens. He made his films more out of desire to assert his love for classical German philosophy that for the aspiration to warm mankind with the his work. As if he didn’t know that for some time now, in Holly- wood, had claimed that cinema was superior to life.
Unexpectedly, during the festivities, Dunja Kusturica matured. After the press conference, before the ritual photos, he whispered to me discreetly:
“Emir, watch out for that over there!” and pointed to Angelopoulos. “If he gets the chance, he’ll steal your palm! I’ve seen how he looked at her when it was on the table.”
I squeezed the Golden Palm tightly and, prompted by my daughter’s warning, I embraced the Greek director pulling him aside. He got restless, and I said placidly:
“Theo, I’ll lend you the Palm so you can make a pair of laps around the Grand Palais, but then you have to give me my toy back. He looked at me with eyes that expressed a clear hatred, but also the regret of not being able to give me a punch on the nose: which was, after all, completely understandable.
All participants in the Dionysian feast had the characteristics of the characters from the movie Underground which was all Angelopoulos hated; as he hoped that he would have won everything in Cannes, Carole Bouquet stood out for her red dress pleated, as if she had arrived some time ago on the beach of the Hotel Martinez, coming from some royal palace.
Every eye was on Carole Bouquet’s face, at the feast of the Son of Father of Dionysus.
It was an innocent face that was looking for a paladin and that feature had gotten its role in the film’s Buñuel. That obscure object of desire. She first walked on the hotel beach with a glass of champagne in her hand. Then, the same night, she danced, carried away by the tones Orientals by the Salijević brass orchestra. She soon got got drunk, getting closer and closer to the Dionysian ideal: a woman who at night, transported by the dance and alcohol let herself go to experiments eros. Pierre Edelman, the rich man’s messenger builder who had brought me the news that there was funding for the Underground in New York, was in her company.
Edelman was a winner that night too. He now had a more difficult task. How to enjoy the victory, but also how to protect that beautiful woman, in which eroticism was not a vulgar and obvious trait of character.
Her fragile nature and the roles she had not played provoke
in her the need to get drunk, while eros emerged in transparency. Pierre danced with ease, until that dance consisted of simple enveloping moves. When Carole lay down on the sand, he tried to follow her viciously, and he lay down too, giggling.
The decadent dance would go on forever if nearby, in that scene that irresistibly recalled La
night by Michelangelo Antonioni, had not been found an unavoidable character on such occasions. That rough mountain man commented aggressively:
“There is nothing to wait for, brother, take it now for the flounder! I know guys like her, it goes right away to the action, i.e. to that thing..” said Pedja D Boy, ur time star of Yugoslav rock’n’roll. Don’t know how yes was crashed at the feast of the Son of the Father of Dionysus.
I’m not sure Carole was aware of the presence of that bully, but I despised arrogance, one of those dinaric types who are always on the hunt for women who look alike to their mothers. Squirming in the sand, Carole increasingly draws his choice to be the testimonial of a famous perfume industry. She hadn’t reached the climax of the career acting that first time in Buñuel film, which had also represented his best artistic result. The peak was reached when his face was associated with the perfume Chanel n. 5. The period began when more and more rarely the fame of actors and actresses is achieved neva thanks to large parts. Alain Delon then turned hundreds worthless films, but it had been Rocco in Rocco and his brothers of Luchino Visconti.
Those times were in a distant past. She had never played memorable roles before
and this was the reason why Carole’s white face remained intact.
Beautiful, yet sophisticated, and certainly attractive. Pedya D Boy had a different idea of freedom. He saw himself rolling in the sand with a drunk woman. After he had pinched her for the umpteenth time, she realized of his presence and she was frightened seeing his expression.
Pierre grabbed a glass of champagne and knocked it over on Pedya’s face. With the same champagne he also watered other people, but Johnny’s bodyguards leapt to the aid of the distinguished guest Carole. The brawl began when Stribor and Diordje decided that every man of our mountains, the violent Pedja D Boy included, had to be defended that night, even if Johnny’s bodyguards just wanted to knightly protect Carole Bouquet from Pedja D Boy.
After the initial shots, the party on the beach suddenly worsened.
The paintings of the Czech painter Josef Lada who represented the tavern brawls in a poetic way immediately came to my mind: tables, chairs, bottles were thrown. Did that really need to happen? Of course not, but it happened. As war also happens. In this case there weren’t the profits as for the war economy.
Still more pointless to wonder if it was really necessary than Stribor and Djordje leapt upon those who protected Carole Bouquet, which none of us
would have touched. In fact, we had known each other for a long time and, if someone attacked her, they would be the very Stribor and Djordje to defend her like a sister. Chance randomly directed the party ofSon of the Father of Dionysus. There weren’t many elements of classic drama. Actor Lazar Ristovski landed a guy with a punch and I’d seen that scene before. He had done the same in Underground. Striborn’s comrade, Miki Hršum, had just arrived from the Bosnian battlefields and fought exclusively by headbutting.
Whenever someone approached him, he threw a headbutt on his forehead and said:
“Go fuck your Ustasha mother!”
When the son of one of mine Paris acquaintance approached him to calm him down, Miki hits him like everyone else, with the head, saying: “Go fuck your Ustasha mother!”, even if the mother of the other guy was French and French had nothing to do with the Ustash. Stribor was fighting with three guys who had appeared there, who knows how. The young Kusturica slaughtered them according to all the rules and when those fled in every direction, the guards of the former bodyguard came upon him again. Unlike me, Maja saw the scene. A mother knows what happens to her children even when she doesn’t look at them. At the beginning I was confused and dazed by that cocktail: tranquilizers plus beer. Chasing those guys who were dragging Stribor towards the sea, mother Maja grabbed one chair and beated Stribor’s attackers on the back; He shouted:
“That’s my son, leave him alone! You hear me idiots?”
In that, the gendarmes and the police appeared and women, of course, assumed they would intervene to end the brawl on the beach. This is not what happened, and while the gendarmes were leaving Maja shouted behind:
“Just like this, in thirty-four in Marseilles you allowed the ustasha to kill our King Alexander!”
I enjoyed that compliment. When your wife is in the midst of a terrible scuffle he compares you to a king and it’s quite something. Look, the Time critic didn’t know it, nor could he write it in his article. If there hadn’t been a fight, I’m sure Maja wouldn’t ever have been called “king”. She was actually very stingy with compliments to me and this, in fact, was the positive part of our relationship. I couldn’t stand exaggerated praise. The worst thing for me was deciding what to do with my hands when someone hit me or praised me too much. I prefer modest praise, mostly those expressed while passing by. In that comparison with the king, the reality was more favorable to me than to our monarch. Unlike him, I could defend myself; Jim Jarmusch stared at the Palme d’Or and wondered: “How can a triumph be celebrated in this way at Cannes?”.
His reflection was interrupted by Miki Manojlović. Jim saw Miki grabbing the Palm and taking it away from the beach under the tuxedo. He did it because he feared that someone stole that golden item.
In the confusion I had lost sight of Johnny. But I knew how he saw the things around him. I didn’t doubt it was confusing, but he is a witty fellow. He must have laughed quite a bit.
Vilko Filač, the man who kept an eye on my films, in short, my operator got tired of my natural dionysian. “This man produces an excess of events” he thought, while together Franja, the woman of his life, left the beach of the Hotel Martinez. I understood that he no longer saw our common future. Movies that we filmed together would not be what they are without his eye fixed on the motion picture film. But for his taste and his goals in life that scandalous brawl was excessive.
During the filming of Underground, while giving the best of himself in the results, I saw the end of our collaboration coming at the same time. I could not reproach him or say anything about him that could destroy our enormous friendship, and our common vision of art. While I looked at Vilko who, embracing Franja, was leaving the beach of the Hotel Martinez, I knew he was leaving my life as well.
Dunja cried in fear, seeing that Maja was beating the bodyguards with a chair, trying to get them off Stribor’s back! I ran to give help.
The matter ended and now the Son of the Father of Dionysus also had to put an end to the party. The end came, as in classic comedies, when it ran out- the energies of the conflicting parties, or rather, when everyone’s strength was lacking, since they didn’t exist clearly defined conflicting groups. Rumors circulated on the presence of infiltrated provocateurs: foreign services and things like that. But I believe that victorious night would not have been lucky if the contagious catharsis of Underground was not filtered in real life. I support this thesis because they were trying to convince me, as I have already written, that I was the brother of Dionysus, but I wouldn’t agree. I liked being the Son of the Father of Dionysus.
The end of the second half of the feast of the Son of Dionysus’ father arrived when a boy ran out the steps leading to the Croisette. That boy looks like those suicide bombers who, packed with explosives, run towards sacrifice. But even if he had bombs he would not be able to activate them. I stood to the side and, while he ran past me, I struck him coldly at the chin. That was the end of the fight, because we all got scared, fearing that the young man was dead banging his head on the concrete. For the umpteenth time in my life I thought of Dostoyevsky and wondered: “Is it really possible, it is probable that tonight, after the crime, I will be reached immediately even from punishment? Will I end up in prison?” I put the boy awake.
I sit on a table. We sprayed him with water. Fortunately, he immediately opened his eyes, looked at me scared and ran away..
He was one of the three who had attacked Stribor before Maja noticed that her son was being beaten.
Five days after the Cannes triumph my mother collapsed in her apartment in Herceg Novi. Yes she was fully recovered, or, as the doctors say, was recovered from breast cancer, but now she had brain cancer. Maja and I got off the plane in Risanée and we saw Senka sitting and smoking. She cried and he asked me:
“Why does all this happen to me, Emir?”
I tried to console her:
“Whatever it is, Senka, you will not die of that!”.
She kept crying, but from the way she hugged me I felt that he believed me. She was taken to the clinical center of Belgrade. There Senka was operated on by doctor Joksimović. It wasn’t a malignant tumor, and she recovered quickly.
When Doctor Nele Karajlić went to see her, he was thrilled to see her laugh, and when she asked him
“Do you have a match, Nele?” he was happy to be able to turn them on have a cigarette and comment:
“To you, Senka, not even a cleaver can do anything!”
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