Otac na Sluzbenom Putu (When Father Was Away on Business) (1985)




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Movie Info

The Yugoslavian When Father Was Away on Business (Otac na Sluzbenoh Putu) takes place in the early 1950s. The title is a euphemism: because of the strained relationship between Yugoslavia and the USSR, various private citizens have disappeared in the middle of the night, accompanied by the police. One such "vanishing" individual is Miki Manojlovic, the father of 6-year old Moreno D'E Bartolli, from whose viewpoint this story is told When Manojlovic, an employee in the labor ministry is whisked away to prison, his family reacts with pride, assuring one and all that he is "away on business" because of his fervent political beliefs. The sad truth: Manojlovic has ended up behind bars because of his sexual peccadilloes. The film details the tribulations of a fatherless family struggling to cope with the financial deprivations of Communism. Director Emir Kusturica won the Cannes Film Festival Golden Palm award for his work on When Father Was Away on Business. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
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Mira Furlan
as Ankica
Jelena Covic
as Natasha
Aleksandar Forcev
as Dr. Lujahaov
Eva Ras
as Zivka
as Dajidza
Pavle Vujisic
as Muzamer
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Critic Reviews for Otac na Sluzbenom Putu (When Father Was Away on Business)

All Critics (6)

This charming saga, winner of the top Cannes Film Fest award, tells the story of one family in Yugoslavia circa the eraly 1950s, when politics invased every aspect of life.

Full Review… | July 25, 2011

A beautifully observed, impeccably performed piece of Chekhovian drama in which a boy, his family and society all sleepwalk through the nightmare of Yugoslavia's Titoist reformation.

Full Review… | June 14, 2007

Karanovic turns Kusturica's tendency to make an epic out of everything he touches into something that's worth the agonies of his extended sentimentality.

Full Review… | July 2, 2005
Cinema Signals

Offers a revealing glimpse of life in Yugoslavia during the 1950s, a time of political transition.

Full Review… | August 22, 2004
Spirituality and Practice

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April 16, 2004
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

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Full Review… | July 30, 2003
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for Otac na Sluzbenom Putu (When Father Was Away on Business)

I tend to read friends reviews because I always want something new experience and it helps me discover gems that I otherwise would have never seen. Which brings me here today reviewing When Father Was Away On Business and it's gonna be really hard for other Yugoslav movies out do this classic. When Father Was Away On Business plots deals with family and political issues in post WW2. What really caught me by surprise is how invested I became with it characters that I didn't notice the political context of movie until the end of film. This film effectively illustrates the absurdity of the oppression of free speech and any system used to try and enforce it in such an effective way that it makes you think. It handles it political message very well and doesn't shove its beliefs down your throat. Mesha, played by the magnificent Miki Manojkovic, is a very dynamic character. He's a father who's very caring about his family, but has no shame about cheating on his wife. All the characters feel fleshed out and it's makes them actual people. My favorite scene, which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen it, it involve Malik losing someone he loves which I found heartwarming and tragic at the same time. When Father Was Away On Business is a rare historical movie that balances romance and politics so well anyone can get into it. The cast played a huge role in making this good. Every part and every character was played by the right actors that it felt like I watching reality. The direction is masterful smoothly telling a story and keeping its viewer engaged. Now I notice When Father Was Away was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film and didn't win. Which have made sense if Ran had won it since it was nominated in the same category that same year, but it lost to La Historia Oficial (The Official Story). Despite not winning best picture, it's a film that truly worth that award and worth watching. When Father When Away On Business is historical, political, and romance in a perfect combination in such a quality film. This is truly worth a watch.

Caesar Mendez
Caesar Mendez

Super Reviewer

One of my favourite movies of all times! Best Yugoslav movie ever! Kusturica became legend with it and there is a reason why!Everything is done perfectly and there was no surprise when it won 1985 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) and the FIPRESCI Prize... I am still not sure why was nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but it did not win it... politics, maybe? Set in post-World War II Yugoslavia during the Informbiro period, the film tells the story through the eyes of a young boy Malik. His father Mesa (played by Miki Manojlović) has been suspected of working for Cominform and sent to a labor camp after a careless remark about a political newspaper cartoon. The movie opens in June 1950 with a local's serenading field workers. He sings Mexican songs because it's "safer", and children 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, Mea's wife and children rejoin him in Zvornik. Malik meets Maa, 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 Zijah, 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. Read that again... crazy story becomes real life, and real life becomes crazy story, and everything is so smoothly run by the Master himself: Emir Kusturica!

Panta Oz
Panta Oz

Super Reviewer

Not the most characteristic of Kosturica's films, it is for me perhaps my favorite. 1948 marked the fall out between Tito and Stalin. Rather than turn it into yet another of the Warsaw block, Tito chose to make Yugoslavia a socialist country that maintained strong and active relations with the western sphere. The decision would be an altogether smart one as it would lead to the flourishing of the Yugo state in the 60s and 70s, when Yugoslavs were among the only people of Eastern Europe with the ability to travel without any visa. Yugoslavia itself entered a period of strong prosperity before its fateful demise, maintaining strong relations with the west while becoming a symbolism of Socialist success in the east and among Socialists abroad. Still, as with most other socialist states of the time, changes in political paradigms were dangerous periods where words were carefully monitored while many of those related to the old were done away with. Yugoslav purges were relatively light in comparison to the Stalinist in the USSR or Albania, never the less, as this film shows, they could still be devastating for a family. The film never forgets this setting, reminding us constantly of the cult of Tito and Yugoslavia through the background reporting of Yugoslavia's football success (eventually beating Russia 3-1). This positive feeling is set behind the depression and hardship endured by the family. The story is told from the eye of the youngest son of the family, Malik, whose lecherous father, Maja, is sent to a labor camp after making a negative comment regarding a political satyr in a newspaper, denounced by his own brother-in-law. Malik is not told the reality about his father's disappearance, only that he has gone away on business, "voluntary labor" in a coal mine. After some time Malik begins to sleep walk, The family eventually follows their father at a "reeducation facility" in the town of Zvornik (made infamous in the 90s after up to a 1000 Bosnians were killed there by Serb troops). There Malik falls in love with the sick daughter of a Russian exile. The rest follows from there. The movie is very atypical of Kosturica as it lacks some of his trademark quirkiness and supernatural aspects. The sleep walking of Malik is perhaps the greatest link to Kosturica. The rest of the develops rather slowly and somberly with plenty of darkly lite scenes, reminiscent of classical Soviet/Communist cinematography. The story seems to contrast the strong feelings and devotion Malik develops for Masha, the Russian doctors daughter, with Maja's, his father's (yea, plenty of short names with m), continuous affairs. The film is moving and can be appreciated by anyone. The hardship and fear felt by the family is a common story in the Orwellian world of the eastern block countries. Many from eastern europe will feel plenty at home with this film, with its politicking and paranoia.

Ted Pilkati
Ted Pilkati

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