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Emir Nemanja Kusturica, OF (Serbian Cyrillic: Емир Немања Кустурица; (born 24 November 1954 in Sarajevomarker, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslaviamarker) is a Bosnianmarker filmmaker, actor and musician with a string of internationally acclaimed features. He won the Palme d'Or at Cannesmarker twice (for When Father Was Away on Business and Underground), and he is also a recipient of the Frenchmarker Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.On 8 September 2007, Kusturica became a UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia, alongside Ana Ivanović, Jelena Janković and Aleksandar Đorđević. Kusturica resides in Drvengrad, a village he had built for his film Life Is a Miracle.

Life and work

Early period

Born to Murat Kusturica (journalist employed at SR Bosnia and Herzegovina Secretariat of Information) and Senka Numankadić (court secretary), young Emir grew up as the only child in a family in the Sarajevomarker neighbourhood of Gorica.

After graduating from the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Praguemarker (FAMU) in 1978, Kusturica began directing made-for-TV television shorts in former Yugoslavia. He made an auspicious feature-film debut in 1981 with Do You Remember Dolly Bell?, which won the prestigious Golden Lion for Best First Work at that year's Venice Film Festival. From 1981 to 1988 he was a lecturer at the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevomarker (Akademija Scenskih Umjetnosti) and art director of Open Stage Obala (Otvorena scena Obala).

His second feature film, When Father Was Away on Business (1985), earned a Palme d'Or at Cannes, five Yugoslavian movie awards, and was nominated for an American Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. He wrote the screenplays for both Do You Remember Dolly Bell? and When Father Was Away on Business in collaboration with Abdulah Sidran. In 1989, Kusturica earned even more accolades for Time of the Gypsies, a penetrating but magical look into gypsy culture and the exploitation of their youth.


Kusturica continued to make highly regarded films into the next decade, including his American debut, the absurdist comedy Arizona Dream (1993) and the Palme d'Or-winning black comedic epic, Underground (1995), based upon a scenario of Dušan Kovačević, famous Serbianmarker playwright.

In 1998, he won the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion for Best Direction for Black Cat, White Cat, a farcical comedy set in a Gypsy (Romany) settlement on the banks of the Danube. The music for the film was composed by the Belgrade-based band No Smoking Orchestra.

Recent life and work

  • In 2001, Kusturica directed Super 8 Stories, a documentary road and concert movie.
  • His film, Maradona a documentary on Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, was originally released in Italy in May 2007. It was premiered in France during the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.
  • His film Promise Me This premeried at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
He was President of the Jury of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
  • In 2007 Kusturica prepared a junk opera, Times of the Gypsies. The premiere took place in June 2007 at the Opéra Bastillemarker in Paris.
  • In July 2007, Kusturica directed the accompanying music video to Manu Chao's single "Rainin In Paradize", from the latter's forthcoming album.
  • In mid December 2007, Kusturica announced the formation of Kustendorf Film Festival.[51088] Its first instalment will be held at Kusturica's village from 14 January to 21 January 2008.
  • Since January 2008, Kusturica annually organizes his own private Küstendorf Film Festival.


Kusturica made his first acting appearance in The Widow of St. Pierre 2000, a movie by director Patrice Leconte, although he had only a few lines. In 2002, Emir Kusturica appeared as an electric guitar player/security specialist in The Good Thief, directed by Neil Jordan. He is playing the role of KGB agent Vladimir Petrov in the movie Farewell by french director Christian Caron.


In 1986-1988 Kusturica played bass guitar in Zabranjeno Pušenje, a rock band from Sarajevomarker (SR Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Although Kusturica played a minor musical role in the band, it changed its name to 'Emir Kusturica & No Smoking Orchestra'. In 1999, the No Smoking Orchestra recorded a new album, Unza Unza Time, produced by the Universal record company, as well as a music video, directed by Emir Kusturica. The band has toured internationally.

The musician and composer Goran Bregović also created music for several Kusturica's films, including Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream, which featured Iggy Pop, and Underground.



Kusturica as well as his work remains controversial at home and abroad. Underground, scripted by Dušan Kovačević, was partly financed by state-owned Serbian television and created controversy. The film detailed the history of Yugoslavia from the beginning of the second World War until the conflict in the 1990s.

Some critics claimed Kusturica propagated a pro-Serbian view of the Yugoslav Wars including animosities during WWII. Many intellectuals claimed the film contained pro-Serb propaganda.Montenegrin reporter Stanko Cerović of radio station Radio France Internationale argued that "Kusturica is consciously making propaganda" going on to say that "he uses films that discredit either other Yugoslav nations or the rotten West conspiring against Serbs. [...] Kusturica refuses to use archival film - to show, for example, the bombardment of Vukovar, or the three-year-long destruction of his native city by the Serbian army - just as he refuses to show us film of the triumphalist farewell given in Belgrade to the Yugoslav army and its tanks as they went to wage war, this war, in Croatia and Bosnia, against literally unarmed people." French philosopher and writer Alain Finkielkraut denounced the Cannes Film Festival's jury saying that "In recognizing Underground, the Cannes jury thought it was honouring a creator with a thriving imagination. In fact, it has honoured a servile and flashy illustrator of criminal clichés. The Cannes jury highly praised a version of the most hackneyed and deceitful Serb propaganda. The devil himself could not have conceived so cruel an outrage against Bosnia, nor such a grotesque epilogue to Western incompetence and frivolity." French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy made a film criticizing Underground. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek said that "I hope we share another point, which is - to be brutal - hatred of [director] Emir Kusturica. 'Underground' is one of the most horrible films that I've seen. What kind of Yugoslav society do you see in Kusturica's Underground? A society where people fornicate, drink, fight - a kind of eternal orgy." For the novelist Aleksandar Hemon, who was born in Bosnia and moved to the United States before the war, Underground downplays Serbian atrocities by presenting "the Balkan war as a product of collective, innate, savage madness."


Kusturica has been criticised for going along with Slobodan Milosevic’s propaganda during the Bosnian War. A Montenegrin writer Andrej Nikolaidis stated: "Considering he proclaimed his dead father (a practicing Muslim) a Serb, and himself, Emir, an Orthodox Christian, he easily chose his own in the Bosnian War. He recognized them in Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. He wasn't there to fire cannon barrages, but whenever he could, with his artistic and media get-up he provided them an alibi for every killed Muslim who didn't want to admit that he was originally an 'Orthodox Christian'." The journalist supported his claims by quoting Kusturica's numerous pro-Milosevic public statements as well as with photos showing Kusturica hugging Jovica Stanišić (chief of Serbian State Security Service, today tried for war crimes in the Hague), Milorad Vučelić (director of Serbian televison ) and Zoran Lilić (at the time president of Yugoslavia). Kusturica sued Nikolaidis and the Monitor newspaper for damage to his reputation at the Supreme Court of Montenegro, resulting in them being fined 12,000 euros for breaking the codex of journalism by calling him stupid, ugly and corrupt in the article.


On Đurđevdan (St. George's Day) in 2005 Emir was baptised into the Serbian Orthodox Church as Nemanja Kusturica (Немања Кустурица) in Savina monastery near Herceg Novimarker, Montenegromarker. To his critics who considered this the final betrayal of his Bosnian Muslim roots, he replied that: "My father was an atheist and he always described himself as a Serb. OK, maybe we were Muslim for 250 years, but we were Orthodox before that and deep down we were always Serbs, religion cannot change that. We only became Muslims to survive the Turks."

The Kusturica trace their origin to Serbian Orthodox Babići.

At the 2007 parliamentary elections he gave indirect support to Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica and his center-right Democratic Party of Serbia. In 2007, he also supported Serbian campaign Solidarity - Kosovo is Serbia, a campaign against the unilateral separation of Serbian province of Kosovomarker.

He is currently living in Drvengrad, Serbiamarker, the village he had built for his film Life Is a Miracle.

Kusturica holds Serbian and French citizenships.

Emir Kusturica is married to Maja Kusturica with whom he has two children, Stribor, 29, and Dunja, 21.




  • Gocic, Goran: "The Cinema of Emir Kusturica: Notes from the Underground", Wallflower Press, London, 2001.
  • Irodanova, Dina: Emir Kusturica. London. British Film Institute 2002.
  • Imsirevic, Almir: "Based on a Truth Story", Sarajevo, 2007.

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