A Way of Life

Drvengrad, on Mećavnik in Mokra Gora, is a place created by Emir Kusturica and somewhere he has continued to create for ten years.

The settlement is formed from old, ‘Dinaric-style’ ancient log cabins from Mt. Tara, adapted as minimally as possible to suit the needs of the modern day. And it is in this commingling of creations, past, present and future, in this ‘settlement of artistic and creative provenance’ that Emir’s three live action feature films, two feature-length documentaries, two festivals – ‘Kustendorf’ and ‘Bolshoi’, whose tradition can now never be denied, two books, much music, and another town, Andrićgrad, have their origins.

Emir Kusturica’s most prolific decade is visible at Mećavnik with every step across the old squares and along the ancient streets, in every corner and every nook of this village with all of the achievements of a civilized society, sadly lacking in most of today’s towns.

“I spent hours looking at Mećavnik, waiting for the sun so we could carry on filming in the hills above Mokra Gora, opposite Mećavnik.” It was Emir Kusturica’s first and decisive impression of this spot, which he would later turn into a place of wonder. “I gazed at that hill with envy. There was nothing there, apart from the sun, which shone on it unceasingly!” His eyes fixed on that sun-drenched hill, Kusturica saw Drvengrad, just as it is today.

There, where ‘there was nothing’, there is now an amazing place, for which people, in hushed tones, say “There is something there!”

There is – apart from in the bliss beneath those ever-present rays of sunshine, there is also something in the water and in the air; there is something in the food and the drink, and in the people, too; there is something among the dogs, which stop being strays at Mećavnik, and something in the ambience and the atmosphere; and in the music coming from the speakers on the wooden lampposts, around whose light still gather moths and bohemians at night, loved and left, seeing who will flag last in waiting for the dawn to come and the morning dew to fall so they can freshen up before finally heading to bed.

This is where Kusturica’s films and books were born, in this very town, Drvengrad, as if in some artistic confessional, where directors, writers, painters, musicians and actors must get everything off their chests.

This is where young people become acclaimed film directors of the future.

At ‘Kustendorf’, a film and music festival on which ‘the sun even shines at night’ (Emir’s ode to that ray of sunshine which brought him to Mećavnik?), students have had the chance for the last ten years, unlike anywhere else in the world, to walk in Emir’s shoes, their laces never tied, to look through Jarmusch’s glasses, to put Depp’s hat on their head, and to hide behind Nikita Mikhalkov’s moustache.

Emir Kusturica lives here, in Drvengrad, on Mećavnik.

He doesn’t impose his lifestyle or philosophy on his guests, but shares it with these friends of Drvengrad: he sleeps and lives in a wooden lodge, he eats from the same kitchen and the same table, laden with vegetables grown in his fields in Mokra Gora and in his greenhouses, he brings out milk, cheese and cream from his dairy that stands alongside a barn with 20 ‘Gatačko’ cows, a native breed from Herzegovina, he drinks the same wine from the cellar, he reads the same books, he looks at the same sky, and gets wet from the same rain.

There is also juice, produced in the juicery on Mećavnik from the fruit grown locally, and Turkish pastries from our largely forgotten and yet not so distant romantic past when people went to a cake shop before or after a trip to the cinema, which surprise, surprise, people love to visit in Drvengrad.

Does that wish still exist to dream, to be an artist, a bohemian, a thinker, a pilot, a philosopher, a writer, a musician, a philanthropist, a poet, a sportsman, an architect, a director, a cameraman, an actor, a hedonist, or a rebel?

Then, onwards to Drvengrad, Mećavnik!

It was here that Emir Kusturica found himself, too.