Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović was 9 months pregnant when she walked on stage at Cannes final July for the premiere of her film Murina. The Croatian director had flown to Europe a few months earlier from New York, the place she lives, after docs had instructed her that Might was her cut-off level for airplane journey. The plan was to have her child within the south of France: every little thing was organised. However after a few days in Cannes – “I partied, I danced, I went to the seaside, I swam, dined, met nice folks” – Kusijanović felt a necessity to offer beginning in her personal nation. “It was an odd emotional push. Like, OK, it’s time to go.”
Figuring out that she may go into labour at any second, she drove 13 hours from Cannes to Croatia along with her husband and straight to hospital, the place she gave beginning to her son. Twelve hours later there was a name from the competition – she had gained the Digicam d’Or prize, for greatest first function, would she wish to go to the ceremony? “I imply, in fact I couldn’t return to Cannes, no!” Kusijanović says, laughing.
However you wouldn’t put it previous her. After spending an entertaining hour with Kusijanović, it’s clear is that she is a pressure of nature, no nonsense, outspoken with a fiery and humorous sense of humour. She’s talking over Zoom from Texas, the place she’s engaged on her second movie. 9-month-old Petrus (Cannes bestowed on him a lifetime accreditation in honour of his well timed arrival) is napping within the next-door room. Her movie Murina is sensible: govt produced by Martin Scorsese and (largely) ecstatically reviewed. Selection’s critic in contrast it to Patricia Highsmith, “if Highsmith had ever written a coming-of-age story set on the rocky, clear-watered Croatian shoreline”. Fairly rightly, Kusijanović is being hailed as a particular new voice in cinema.
Kusijanović says she began writing the script earlier than #MeToo, however Murina is a movie for our occasions, about machismo, ego and suffocating masculinity. It’s the story of a 16-year-old woman known as Julija (Gracija Filipović), rising up in a sleepy Croatian fishing village along with her fisherman dad, Ante (Leon Lučev), and mum, Nela (Danica Curcic). To vacationers, their existence seems idyllic. However Ante is a controlling and petulant patriarchal determine who calls for whole obedience from his spouse and daughter. Like a psychological thriller or escape film, the query is: can Julija break freed from her father and the conformist values of her group?
What has been fascinating about screening Murina in Croatia, says Kusijanović, is that misogyny is so ingrained that some folks miss it as a theme. “They’ll say: ‘What’s taking place on this movie? It is a regular household. Nothing actually occurs.’” Is Ante’s domineering behaviour rationalised by the viewers as a part of Croatian tradition? Kusijanović nods vigorously “Sure! However it’s not tradition, it’s not mentality. That’s unsuitable!” Moving into her stride, she jabs her finger down the display screen. “Individuals assume it’s regular: it’s our scorching Mediterranean blood or no matter. It’s not, it’s simply violence. We are able to passionately sing and prepare dinner nice fish. That’s mentality. The remainder is violence.” It drives her nuts when she’s in Croatia. “I get arrhythmia after I step out of the airport right into a cab.” She catches herself and bursts out laughing. “I’m actually dangerous. How is that this going to sound?”
Kusijanović was born in Dubrovnik, right into a household that would not be farther from Julija’s within the movie. Her mom is a profitable artwork restorer and painter. “I used to be very fortunate to develop up in a household of very robust ladies. I truly found feminism very late. I didn’t know that I must name myself a feminist as a result of there was only a feminist lifestyle in our household.” She grew to become a toddler actor, working from the age of six, largely in theatre. “I used to be very extrovert and outgoing. I’d be the one gathering the youngsters in my road for a theatre present. From the age of 5 I used to be directing, truly.”
It was additionally round this time that Kusijanović’s childhood was swept up within the violence of the Balkan warfare. Her household fled Croatia as refugees in 1991, dwelling abroad for a few years, first in Italy, then at a monastery in Austria and, lastly, in Germany. “I considered it as travelling. My mom was actually superb at pulling that off. She actually made it really feel like a sport. I don’t know if I may try this with my son.”
After they returned to Dubrovnik, the household’s condominium inside town partitions had been partially destroyed by a grenade. After which there was the trauma; someday Kusijanović’s main college trainer was involved sufficient to name in her mom. “I used to be writing darkish poems. ‘My metropolis is bleeding’ – that was the identify of 1 poem. I used to be writing quite a bit in regards to the combat between good and evil.”
Terrifyingly, after the warfare, again in Croatia, Kusijanović had a near-death expertise in a landmine explosion. Driving within the mountains on a slender highway along with her household, they met an oncoming automotive. As the 2 automobiles nudged previous one another, the opposite automotive drove on to a mine: “Our entrance wheel was 10cm from the landmine. The opposite automotive blew up within the air and fell on our automotive. The man who was driving was decapitated. I used to be seven. I noticed every little thing.” She says that someday she want to write a narrative, one thing with a fantastical aspect, of a kid’s view of warfare.
How did being a toddler of warfare form her? Kusijanović pauses for a second, deep in thought. “Since very early years I had a really robust sense of time. I believe that’s what shaped me most. I don’t assume there’s something worse than not fulfilling your time and your potential. It’s an actual sin.” One other lengthy pause. “Struggle is a really silly factor There’s no good purpose to be in a warfare.” She have to be watching the horror in Ukraine very intently, I say. “Sure, in fact. It feels awfully acquainted.”
When she was 27, Kusijanović started a grasp’s diploma in movie at Columbia College. The story of how she first picked up a digital camera seems like an episode of The Sopranos. Just a few years earlier than the MA, she determined to make a documentary a couple of labour dispute between union and non-union development employees in her New York neighbourhood. It appeared entertaining: someday, somebody introduced a large inflatable rat. “It was actually fascinating till I scratched too deep.” After being adopted by heavies for a number of days, issues turned nasty. First intimidation: “They mentioned to surrender on this story, in any other case I’d disappear.” She instructed them the place to stay it. When the threats turned bodily, the police suggested her to cease her movie.
That sounds terrifying. She shrugs. “When you don’t combat for one thing that issues, you shouldn’t do something. I’d by no means simply direct a cute story. I don’t have the time. As a result of, you already know, I can die tomorrow.”
What she is up for, nonetheless, is one thing on the dimensions of a superhero film. Even earlier than I get the query out, she solutions: “I wanna try this! If you already know somebody who’s gonna provide me that, I’m able to go.” I wouldn’t second guess her.