The story of how Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović hired Martin Scorsese to help him make his first feature, in his mind, “boring”. Boredom may be a bit mild, but it’s easy. The day after graduating from film school, he flew to Cannes, shook hands and met her company Sikelia on board the executive production of his film “Murina”. “It’s that easy,” he said. “I don’t know if it happens every day. I don’t think so.” But Scorsese saw something in Kusijanović and his short film “Into the Blue,” about a young girl and her mother who run away from an abusive home and seek refuge on a beautiful Croatian island. The twenty-two-minute film won numerous awards at international film festivals and was nominated for the Student Academy Award. “Here’s a director with a picture he needs to make that’s clear in the long run,” Scorsese wrote recently. “I want to help him get it into production.
“Murina,” which opens Friday in New York and July 15 in Los Angeles, is a great thriller to read about a 17-year-old girl, Julia (Gracija Filipović), who lives on a rocky, remote island in the Adriatic with an abusive, domineering father (Leon Lučev ) and self-confident mother (Danica Čurčić). The larger world mocks him when a cosmopolitan outsider (Cliff Curtis) comes up with many ideas about his future. Film critic Jessica Kiang writes in her review that “Murina” feels like something written by Patricia Highsmith (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Carol”). Kusijanović struggled with the idea of chauvinism, which had become so entrenched in society that he did not understand this “cultural mentality” when he began writing. He wrote the film specifically for Filipović, the lead in “Into the Blue”, because he wanted to bring him to the peak of adulthood at 17 and 18 years old. “I wrote ‘Murina’ for him, but I also wrote it for myself,” he said. “I write it for many women around the world and especially in Croatia.” In Julia, there is a character who lives in a physical paradise, but begins to see cracks in the nozzle.
“I hope it’s someone who has to deal with everything,” Kusijanović said. “Don’t make him small. He had to live in his youth and his power. And protect himself no matter what. That’s what I want to think about this new generation of women.” Born and raised in Dubrovnik, a small town in Croatia on the Adriatic coast, Kusijanović loved the theater as a child. He tried games with his mother and started playing as a child. However, the director didn’t mind. According to her, there are only a few female directors in Croatia. It was not a path that seemed open to him. “Any condition, no matter how good, if it doesn’t flourish and develop emotionally, intellectually, creatively, it becomes a prison,” he said. “Sometimes I see a place in my country that stagnates because of a lack of imagination. But to be honest, it’s not just Croatia. I see it because I’m emotionally connected to Croatia, but I see it. it’s everywhere.” He took a big leap and moved to New York to intern at a film company. After some encouragement from a friend, he decided to enroll at Columbia, where he earned an MFA in writing and directing. That said, meeting Scorsese might be easy, but it’s also something he’s been trying to do his whole life. “I like it a lot,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard on it and a lot of things have to come from the past to achieve this after 4 years. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.”
Murina had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and won Kusijanović’s Caméra d’Or for Best First Film. But he wasn’t there to accept the award. She was nine months pregnant at the time and decided to leave Cannes and go home to Croatia one night for 13 hours. Shortly after she had her first child. For all the praise, Kusijanović said it was the note Scorsese wrote about the film that struck him the most. She hid it by her phone and was excited to read it out loud. “Murina” made a big impression on me: “Because of the harsh urgency of the conflict between father and daughter, the sense that it could only happen in such an elemental situation; Because of the psychosexual tension between all the characters, so beautifully moved.” And according to the physical power of the photo, “Scorsese wrote.” I was pleased that the audience saw “Murina” with their own eyes and witnessed the emergence of a more talented boy – a filmmaker.” However, Kusijanović has a problem. “I’m not a kid anymore,” he said softly. “Maybe 36 is too few for a director.”
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