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Conversations on Europe. "The Demiurgic Film Auteur: Emir Kusturica and Utopian Nation-Rebuilding."
After 1989, film auteurism in Eastern Europe has shown resilient continuities with the familiar cold-war figure of the politically engaged and heroically dissident filmmaker, but it has also revealed remarkable novelties. For Emir Kusturica, the traumatic experience of the Yugoslav wars has perhaps prompted an auteristic drift into new aesthetic and political territories. After the controversial and award-winning Underground (1995), he started working with the Belgrade-based band No Smoking Orchestra as film editor and scorer, as well as band member and concert performer. Filled with slapstick humor and, for some, carnivalesque political inconsistency, his later films have somewhat lost their past artistic appeal while gaining the performative forms of the “musical,” the “live concert,” and the “animated cartoon.” More recently, he has also sought to literalize his ambitions to create a Balkan cultural space toward more demiurgic results. He has designed an ideal village, Küstendorf, in Western Serbia, which serves as home, site of a film festival, and center for the preservation of Serbian cultural traditions. Lately, he has also announced “the biggest, most spectacular project of [his] life”—the controversial construction within Višegrad of the town of Andricgrad, inspired by the writing of Yugoslavian Nobel literature laureate Ivo Andric. The Sarajevo-born director’s self-reflexive trajectory raises questions of protean authorial status and national/ethnic representation within the Balkans. His status has changed from committed “Second World” visionary filmmaker to cantor of the primitive marginality of his “lost nation” and architect of Serbian-as-Yugoslav actual settlements. Has the avant-garde utopia of world redemption found in the Balkan film auteur par excellence another new cleric?
Giorgio Bertellini is associate professor in the Departments of Screen Arts and Cultures and Romance Languages and Literatures. Editor of The Cinema of Italy (2004; 2007) and Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader (2013), he is the author of numerous essays on silent cinema across the Atlantic and of the award-winning Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Landscape, and the Picturesque (Indiana UP, 2010). More recently he has revised and expanded his 1996 monograph on Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica, and is preparing an English edition for the Contemporary Film Directors Series of the University of Illinois Press.