When Father Was Away on Business

When Father Was Away on Business
Directed by Emir Kusturica
Produced by Mirza Pašić
Written by Abdulah Sidran
Starring Moreno De Bartoli
Miki Manojlović
Mirjana Karanović
Mustafa Nadarević
Mira Furlan
Davor Dujmović
Predrag Laković
Pavle Vujisić
Music by Zoran Simjanović
Cinematography Vilko Filač
Edited by Andrija Zafranović
Centar Film
Forum Sarajevo
Distributed by Scotia International Filmverleih (1985) (West Germany)
Cannon Film Distributors (USA) (subtitled)
Hollydan Works (2007-2008) (Non-US)
Koch Lorber Films (2005) (USA)
Release dates
  • 12 September 1985 (1985-09-12) (West Germany)
Running time
136 minutes
Country Yugoslavia
Language Serbo-Croatian
Box office $25,053 (West Germany only)
$16,131 (USA only)

When Father Was Away on Business (Serbo-Croatian: Otac na službenom putu/Отац на службеном путу) is a 1985 Yugoslav film by director Emir Kusturica. The screenplay was written by the Bosnian dramatist Abdulah Sidran. Its subtitle is A Historical Love Film and it was produced by Centar Film and Forum, production companies based in Sarajevo.

Set in post-World War II Yugoslavia during the Informbiro period, the film tells the story through the eyes of the young boy Malik. His father, communist functionary Meša (played by Miki Manojlović), has been sent to a labour camp by his own brother-in-law (his wife Sena's brother) Zijo who's an even higher positioned Communist functionary for making a remark about a political cartoon regarding the Tito–Stalin Split in the Politika newspaper.


The movie opens in June 1950 with a local neighbourhood drunk Čika Franjo serenading field workers. He sings Mexican songs (as it turns out, he does so out of self-preservation, figuring it's safer for him to steer clear of songs originating from either of the two dominant global powers — United States and Soviet Union — in the current climate of Cold War and Yugoslavia's paranoid repressive internal apparatus looking to identify and remove enemies of the state in the wake of the Tito–Stalin Split) while local children, including Malik, climb trees and play around. The story is from the perspective of the boy, Malik, whose mother Sena tells him that his father is on a business trip. Malik is a chronic sleepwalker.

After a while, Meša's wife and children rejoin him in Zvornik. Malik meets Maša, the daughter of a Russian doctor. He falls in love with her, but last sees her when the ambulance takes her away.

At the wedding of his maternal uncle Fahro, Malik witnesses his father's affair with a woman pilot. She later tries to commit suicide by using a toilet's flush cord. Sena reconciles with her brother Zijah, who's been diagnosed with diabetes.



See also


  1. "Festival de Cannes: When Father Was Away on Business". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
  2. "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
  3. "1985 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
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