With an impressive string of internationally acclaimed features, Yugoslavian filmmaker Emir Kusturica became one of the most creative directors in cinema during the 1980s and '90s. Born in Sarajevo and educated at the distinguished FAMU Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, he began directing Yugoslavian television shows before making an auspicious feature-film debut in 1981 with Do You Remember Dolly Bell?, which won the prestigious Golden Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival. His sophomore film, When Father Was Away on Business (1985), earned a Golden Palm at Cannes, five Yugoslavian Oscar equivalents, and was nominated for an American Academy award for Best Foreign Film. In 1989, he earned even more accolades for Time of the Gypsies a penetrating but magical look into gypsy culture and the exploitation of their youths. Kusturica continued to make highly regarded films into the next decade, including his American debut, the absurdist comedy Arizona Dream (1993) and the Golden Palm-winning black comedy Underground (1995). In 1998, he won the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion for Best Direction for Black Cat, White Cat, an outrageous, farcical comedy set in a Gypsy settlement on the banks of the Danube.
Known as much for his political activism as his filmmaking in his native country, Kusturica spoke out against the Serbian right/ultranationalist movement on many occasions. He once challenged the leader of Serbia's ultranationalist movement, Vojislav Seselj, to a high-noon duel in the heart of Belgrade. Seselj declined, saying that he "didn't want to be accused of [the] murder of an artist."