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 advised her that Might was her cut-off level for aircraft journey. The plan was to have her child within the south of France: all the things was organised. However after a few days in Cannes – “I partied, I danced, I went to the seashore, I swam, dined, met nice individuals” – Kusijanović felt a necessity to present beginning in her personal nation. “It was an odd emotional push. Like, OK, it’s time to go.”
Realizing that she may go into labour at any second, she drove 13 hours from Cannes to Croatia together with her husband and straight to hospital, the place she gave beginning to her son. Twelve hours later there was a name from the pageant – she had received the Digicam d’Or prize, for finest first function, would she wish to go to the ceremony? “I imply, after all 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 power 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: government produced by Martin Scorsese and (principally) 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 lady referred to as Julija (Gracija Filipović), rising up in a sleepy Croatian fishing village together with her fisherman dad, Ante (Leon Lučev), and mum, Nela (Danica Curcic). To vacationers, their existence appears to be like idyllic. However Ante is a controlling and petulant patriarchal determine who calls for complete 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 neighborhood?
What has been fascinating about screening Murina in Croatia, says Kusijanović, is that misogyny is so ingrained that some individuals miss it as a theme. “They may say: ‘What’s taking place on this movie? This can be 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! But it surely’s not tradition, it’s not mentality. That’s flawed!” Stepping 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 will passionately sing and cook dinner nice fish. That’s mentality. The remaining 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 unhealthy. 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 girls. I really found feminism very late. I didn’t know that I have to name myself a feminist as a result of there was only a feminist lifestyle in our household.” She turned a baby actor, working from the age of six, principally 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, really.”
It was additionally round this time that Kusijanović’s childhood was swept up within the violence of the Balkan conflict. Her household fled Croatia as refugees in 1991, residing 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 wonderful at pulling that off. She actually made it really feel like a recreation. I don’t know if I may try this with my son.”
After they returned to Dubrovnik, the household’s residence inside town partitions had been partially destroyed by a grenade. After which there was the trauma; at some point Kusijanović’s main college instructor 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 lots in regards to the combat between good and evil.”
Terrifyingly, after the conflict, again in Croatia, Kusijanović had a near-death expertise in a landmine explosion. Driving within the mountains on a slim street together with her household, they met an oncoming automobile. As the 2 automobiles nudged previous one another, the opposite automobile drove on to a mine: “Our entrance wheel was 10cm from the landmine. The opposite automobile blew up within the air and fell on our automobile. The man who was driving was decapitated. I used to be seven. I noticed all the things.” She says that at some point she wish to write a narrative, one thing with a fantastical component, of a kid’s view of conflict.
How did being a baby of conflict 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 fashioned 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. “Conflict is a really silly factor There’s no good motive to be in a conflict.” She have to be watching the horror in Ukraine very carefully, I say. “Sure, after all. 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 appears like an episode of The Sopranos. A number of years earlier than the MA, she determined to make a documentary a couple of labour dispute between union and non-union building employees in her New York neighbourhood. It appeared entertaining: at some point, somebody introduced a large inflatable rat. “It was actually fascinating till I scratched too deep.” After being adopted by heavies for a couple of days, issues turned nasty. First intimidation: “They mentioned to surrender on this story, in any other case I would disappear.” She advised them the place to stay it. When the threats turned bodily, the police suggested her to cease her movie.
That sounds terrifying. She shrugs. “If you happen to don’t combat for one thing that issues, you shouldn’t do something. I might by no means simply direct a cute story. I don’t have the time. As a result of, you realize, I can die tomorrow.”
What she is up for, nevertheless, 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 realize somebody who’s gonna supply me that, I’m able to go.” I wouldn’t second guess her.