CANNON MONTH 2: When Father Was Away on Business (1985)

EDITOR’S NOTE: When Father Was Away On Business was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Cannon Releasing Corporation.

A Yugoslav film by Serbian director Emir Kusturica, this Cold War film won the Palme d’Or at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

It begins with neighborhood drunk Čika Franjo singing Mexican songs to field workers and avoiding the tunes of the U.S. and U.S.S.R., as Yogoslavia is in a strange time as the country is quite paranoid after the Tito–Stalin Split.

The story is told from the POV of Malik, whose father Meša was sent to a labor camp but his mother Sena tells him that — true to the title — that his father is away on business, not sent to basically prison by his wife’s brother Ziho after Meša’s mistress tells him about a remark that her lover made about a political cartoon.

After working in a mine for several years and his family struggling, they are reunited but must all go to be socially reconditioned. There, Malik falls in love with Maša, the daughter of a Russian doctor, yet she dies quite young and he watches as she is taken away in an ambulance.

At the same time, his father hasn’t stopped having affairs, including one with a woman pilot who tries to hang herself from a toilet cord. All during this, Malik begins to sleepwalk and get into strange misadventures.

This is about a time that I never knew of when Tito refuted Stalinism and wanted a different path for Yugoslavia without becoming too much like the West. And while it became the most liberal Communist country of Europe, Tito suppressed internal opposition and both executed and jailed many of his enemies.

I love when film shows us places we could never go and people we would never meet.

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