Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović is the director and co-writer of Murina, a family drama about a 17-year-old Croatian girl who finds her feminist voice. Her film won the Caméra d'Or prize – the award for the best first feature film – at the 74th Cannes Film Festival last year.
The Croatian American filmmaker, who is based in New York City, set and made the film along the Adriatic coast of Croatia. In Murina, teenager Julija (Gracija Filipović), who lives with her mother Nela (Danica Curcic) and father Ante (Leon Lučev), longs for independence. Their lives are shaken up when a rich developer named Javier (Cliff Curtis), an old family friend, plans to build a resort on their homeland.
Murina was executive produced by none other than Martin Scorsese. Hélène Louvart, who shot last year's The Lost Daughter, was her film's cinematographer.
Having been acquired by Kino Lorber, Murina will open on July 8 at Metrograph cinema in New York City. It will screen at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on July 15, with more national dates to follow.
Kusijanović tells A.frame how difficult it would be for her to select the top five films that have shaped her vision as a filmmaker. "I'm trying to be honest to myself, of what are the things that truly touched me, not those that sound good to other directors," Kusijanović confesses. "I come from a theater background. I’m influenced by painting, architecture and writing. I rarely look at other films while making my own. I mostly find inspiration in people and spaces – they really define how people are," she explains. "These are the films that made me cry; that’s why I chose them."
Written and Directed by: Ari Folman
This is an animated documentary about the 1982 Lebanon War. I really love this film. The animation is gorgeous; it takes us to surreal places of memory. Memory is something very seductive and tricky, it works in mysterious ways. The director tries to remember the time he was a young soldier in 1982. Why this movie is so strong and powerful is – because it's animated – it allows us to forget that what we're watching is reality. It draws attention to storytelling, to fiction. You can sink truly into it. It's the only way to watch the terror and accept it, to get to the end of the story. Once you reach the end of the film, the director turns to original documentary material. That is a strong tool. Otherwise, that world, you would have eagerly avoided that. It's about committing crimes against humanity, feeling remorse and guilt. I also come from the war, I related to what he was talking about, even if it was cartoons, it was real people. Sometimes, watching real people is not as impactful as this cartoon.
Co-Written and Co-Directed by: John Musker and Ron Clements
This is the first movie I remember watching as a child. I remember thoughts, having a sense of space, rhythm, and the arc of the plot. It's my favorite cartoon. Then I realized later in life the stories you enjoyed as a child and attracted you, somehow defined you. They attracted you so much at an early stage, they're telling of something within you. Later in life, I realized that Ariel is unaware of her talent and her voice. That is what I was scared about, as a child. It wasn't about going after the prince. There's a scene where Ursula, vain and egocentric, makes Ariel sign a contract. She says, 'What I want from you is your voice.' And, 'What do you need your voice for?' Actually, that has happened to me at a pivotal moment in my career. As I was leaving university and got financing for my first film, it happened to me with one of my mentors at school. I realized if you don’t own what you have, people are going to want to take it away from you.
Written and Directed by: Jane Campion
This is the film that has defined me. The reason is that it was the first time in my life where I saw a woman portrayed as a whole person. She is complex; an artist, a lover, violent, she has desire, she’s jealous, delicate, strong, a mother, in conflict with her own daughter. There’s a woman-to-woman moment, and there's a moment where the daughter becomes a mother to her own mother. There's so much it tackles; it’s a full-bodied expression of what women are. Jane Campion did inspire my characters.
Directed by: Ridley Scott | Written by: Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples
It’s one of the best films. It’s spiritual, philosophical, entertaining, it has incredible production design, and metaphors. He worked with Moebius (Jean Giraud), one of my favorite artists. It depicts a decaying future, which is very close to what’s happening to us right now. It is asking the most important question we are asking through many different stories, and that is: ‘What makes us human? What makes us different?’ For that question, I watch Blade Runner.
Written and Directed by: Tatiana Huezo
This is a film that premiered at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, the same one Murina premiered, so Tatiana Huezo is one of my peers. It's a very moving film, I saw it during the pandemic lockdown, before Cannes. It shed a light on my whole life, at that point. It tells the story of three girls living in this idyllic village, oppressed by the omnipresence of an invisible antagonist. What we're really sinking into are the delicate dynamics of these three girls. It's not a classical coming-of-age because their society and they themselves know that – any day – one of them can go missing. They are the future of that society. It’s unpredictable what future they have. To watch these three girls at play was so powerful. Through being so young, we can easily forget death and danger. During the pandemic, the film truly inspired me. Life is cruel to these three little girls. This film is calling for change in Mexico – it's about the abduction of young women. It is about genocide and this very timely issue that the country is facing. But it’s a problem that isn’t just in Mexico.
By Nadja Sayej