2021 will have been good for Antoneta Kusijanovic. Despite the specter of Covid, the 39-year-old Croatian director managed to buckle down Murina in time for the Cannes Film Festival. In this captivating and disturbing first feature film, she follows Julija, a young diving champion in contact with an authoritarian and suffocating father, who will try to free herself from this straitjacket. A powerful work hailed by Cannes critics and awarded the prestigious Camera d’Or.
As the year is about to bow out and we contact her through Zoom, we find the filmmaker bedridden in her Houston apartment, towel tied over her head. She is feverish, “but I don’t have the Covid,” she felt compelled to add with a tired little smile. In a few days, Antoneta Kusijanovic will fly to the Arcs Film Festival or Murina is in competition. Before that, she talks to us about her place as a female director in current cinema, sexism and her love for Jane Campion.
Terrafemina: How have you lived these last two years marked by the Covid?
Antoneta Kusijanovic: These two years have been very difficult for humanity. And, I can tell you with full knowledge of the facts, for the artists, the directors. We could say to ourselves that it is easier to create under these conditions: after all, we would just have to sit at home and write. But when we don’t have any new impetus in our lives, it’s hard. I know Shakespeare wrote while staying locked up at home, but hey … I was however very productive: I had a baby and I managed to finish Murina in time for the Cannes premiere. It was unexpected in these conditions.
Murina follows Julija, a young Croatian suffocated by her misogynistic and toxic father. What inspired you to this story?
AK: I am both an external and internal observer of my own country. I was born and raised in Croatia, but moved to study in the United States when I was in my twenties. Going back there every year confronts me with the prevailing mentality. The way women are treated within the family nucleus has always shocked and disappointed me. And the fact that this is accepted by both men and women strikes me.
I wanted to talk about these relationships in my film and create a character that would question them, as a kind of booster shot for the next generations of women in Croatia.
What do you think is still holding back female directors today?
AK: The immense disproportion and inequality in the financing of films. In 2019, the European Union had declared that the money intended for films would be distributed equitably between directors. Except that the budget remains mainly allocated to men.
If we want women to be properly represented at festivals, in film markets or in theaters, they should have the opportunity to produce. If we were to establish quotas, it should be at this level of production as a priority. So women would have the chance to make great movies.
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Antoneta Kusijanovic’s post- # MeToo confidences, Camera d’Or 2021