I still want to shoot a film about destruction and breakdown

Even with yesterday’s gorgeous weather, Emir Kusturica made a gloomy impression. At Art Film Fest’s opening ceremony, the world-renowned director accepted the Golden Camera Award. But during our afternoon interview, he confessed that he could never make simple, upbeat movies like Woody Allen.

You’ve amassed up just about every distinguished award a film director can. Does winning them still do anything for you?
I’ve never had a hankering for awards. Filmmakers are most inspired by awards for their latest films. They impel you to create more work. And the other attractive dimension of prizes is the festivals themselves. I enjoy attending them, and getting to visit the countries and cities where they’re held.

Any initial impressions from these first few minutes you’ve spent here at Art Film Fest?
When I studied in Prague, I’d visit Bratislava often. I had friends there, we’d go on pub crawls and watch the beautiful girls. Now I’m back in Slovakia as an older man. And I like the atmosphere here in Trenčianske Teplice.

It must be quite different from what the world associates with the Balkans.
The Balkans haven’t changed for the last six or seven hundred years. It’s the same it’s always been, a world between the West and the East.

Might one call it a lost world?
I wouldn’t say that. The Balkans are full of life right now, in a way that I don’t really see anywhere else in the world.

Then how could it be the same as the last seven hundred years?
What has changed is the form. The content is the same as ever.

But can a filmmaker break free from the atmosphere they live in, and shoot a film with a different poetic?
That’s never been my goal. The kinds of films I want to make are ones that portray suffering, misery. After all, that’s what life and the whole world are full of. I like Dostoyevsky’s way of looking at the world. I think it’s very accurate.

When your films expose the suffering you endure in their production, do you think it can free life of such feelings?
A film can influence the viewer. But I no longer believe that art can change the world. The entire time I studied in Prague, I was convinced I could change the world from behind the camera. That wore off when I finished school.

Movies don’t deal with society anymore. Hollywood isn’t interested in anything but profits. But it wasn’t always that way in America, now that we’re on the subject. Older American independent cinema, truly independent cinema, was excellent. But that era ended along with the Vietnam War.

What is Emir Kusturica’s stance on the recent arrest of Ratko Mladić?
The world blames everything that went wrong in the Balkans on us – the Serbs. That’s why I highly doubt that the Hague court will decide Mladić’s case any differently from this reigning oversimplification. But I’d still like to wait for the International Tribunal’s decision.

Wouldn’t you like to express your point of view through film?
I’m working on two projects: I still want to shoot a film about destruction and breakdown, and I’m also preparing a television serial based on the work of Nobel-winning author Ivo Andrić.

How does a new movie take form in your head?
As a sequence of images. I arrange the images one after another, I turn them over in my head and gradually make a long chain out of them. In the end it’s just like watching one of my films in the cinema.

Juraj Fellegi