Born in Sarajevo, Emir Kusturica is a filmmaker, actor and musician and the author of a singular filmography, marked by an intense magical realism, a celebration of life and cinema, haunted since the 1990s by the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and by the Balkan War.
After studying in Prague at the famous FAMU, the Czech film state school, Kusturica directs two feature films which gave him instant notoriety and recognition: Do You Remember Dolly Bell? (evoking 1960s’ Yugoslavia, his first film was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Festival in 1981) and When Father Was Away on Business (which won him a Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or in 1985).
Time of the Gypsies (1988, his first great success among the public) and Arizona Dream (1993, directed in the United States, a tragicomic deconstruction of the American dream, starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Jerry Lewis) open up to the passionate exuberance of his obsessive view on cinema and the world, heirs of a Fellini.
The Kusturica universe, populated by a culturally complex gallery of characters who are underprivileged, bizarre or marginalised (coming from various ethnic groups, religions and nationalities) and by a myriad of animals who invade the action, emerges between the duality of reality and fantasy (the stories told are often true and light the fuse of cinematographic imagination), to which the onirism of levitation, the sensuality of desires, the intensity of operas and the euphoria of music provide an unparalleled audacity and energy.
Underground (his most famous film, which has the suggestive subheading “Once Upon a Time There Was A Country”), a parable of Yugoslavian history, earns him a second Palme d’Or in Cannes, in 1995. Black Cat, White Cat (1998, featuring songs by the No Smoking Orchestra for the first time, the garage-rock band with punk and folk influences founded in 1981, which Kusturica became a part of in 1986 and which would, from then on, pen the soundtracks to his films), was awarded the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion for Best Direction.
In 2001, Emir Kusturica directs Super 8 Stories, a documentary about the No Smoking Orchestra, and in 2004, he directs Life Is a Miracle, winner of the Best European Union Film at the César Awards in 2005. Following another fiction film, Promise Me This (2007), in 2008 he launches Maradona, a documentary about the story of the famous Argentinian soccer star.
On The Milky Road (2016), premiered at the last Venice Festival, his first feature in nine years, stars Kusturica himself and Monica Bellucci, in a peculiar (and real) love story, with the memory of the Balkan War still in the background.
In 2018, he returns to documentaries with El Pepe: A Supreme Life, a look at the life and legacy of the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica.