Film Scouts Interviews

Emir Kusterica Press Conference
at the 2010 Taormina Film Fest

by Philipp Hoschka
Two-time winner of the Cannes Film Festival "Gold Palm" Emir Kusterica explains how the Cannes red carpet helped football god Maradona to get back to the field, why Switzerland can be bad for art, and also talks about his new project with Johnny Depp.

How did the Maradona movie get started?

Emir Kusterica: A Spanish producer asked me whether I wanted to make a movie. I said yes without thinking. There was no story, only a little budget. The idea was to put some light on this tragic figure from the football field.

Did things change very much during the shooting?

Emir Kusterica: Yes, you cannot catch him.

Your film showed us Maradona as we've never seen him. Maradona was not just a drug-addict or a football God, but much more than that.

Emir Kusterica: I am very happy to hear that. He has opened his heart. When he was in the stadium, he was like a Napoleon. But when I read his autobiography I found many painful elements he was always successfully hiding.

Watching all these TV interviews with him he wasn't expressing a lot. Sometimes he was crying but these weren't real tears, he was a drug addict.

But he really opened up to me. It was a long psychiatric treatment which was crowned in Cannes. It was the red carpet that gave him his new life.

In making the movie on Maradona, what was the most surprising?

Emir Kusterica: He has basic shamanistic potential, which is crucial in games like football. He is a very, very special man.

Look at the interview in the garage, when he was talking about what kind of player we lost because of his drug addiction - I mean: what else could we expect than what he gave us? It was funny in a way. What else could he do on the football field? He was showing how deeply human he stayed.

Maradona pretends to be very rational. He pretends to be smart, educated and normal. But the first thing that attacks this steady rationality he freaks out. Even if it is necessary to crush a journalist with his car, he still does it.

Maradona's and Bono's political activities seem similar.

Emir Kusterica: I wouldn't compare Bono and Maradona. Bono is friendly with people like Bush. Bono is a constructive manager. Maradona's life is determined by illusions. Maradona is not manageable.

Jim Jarmush would call him an outlaw. It is great to see an outlaw come back as trainer of the Argentinean team.

This man, five years ago, was not allowed to go into Argentinean hospitals. He was rejected from nearly all rehab centers. This speaks about this antique position of character. In the end, he becomes a winner.

It seems Hollywood can't make a movie about a normal person anymore.

Emir Kusterica: Maybe we are not living on the same planet. I was receiving films from the States in the seventies with a lot of excitement. Today, I don't see that anymore.

One day, using a Canon, you will be able to make a movie with no pressure that will be really good. And a young person who is talented will make it.

Hollywood films do not reflect our position in universe today. And I think that is a big problem.

As terrible as the time was in Yugoslavia when you made your movies, do you nevertheless feel blessed as an artist?

Emir Kusterica: The best time for an artist is chaos. I did "Life is a Miracle" that talked about this war. This was the period where I saved myself from self destruction by making cinema.

It is better to be one year in Serbia or Sicilia for an artist than one year in Switzerland. The mystic element is important.

Do you regard being a film director as similar to shamanism?

Emir Kusterica: Shamanism is about people who lead. Cinema is very close to a military operation. One man is producing images the other ones have to follow. You cannot democratize this process. In order to not be rude in this process, you have to have to be shamanistic - people need to follow you, they need to like you.

I am now finishing my first book. It feels good to finish something without the help of other people.

It's been a while that you made a fiction film.

Emir Kusterica: If you're not passionate about a project, if it doesn't come from your guts. I have a project with Johnny Depp - "Pancho Villar".

What do you like about Johnny Depp?

Emir Kusterica: Johnny Depp is a friend from 1988 who has seen "Time of the Gypsies" and he found this one of the dearest and the best films for him. We did "Arizona Dream" together. I think the way he chose directors was impressive to me. He is still a cinema man, not a man of money.

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