In Voronezh, actor Gosha Kutsenko presented the war drama about the special operation of the Russian military in Kosovo in 1999 named “The Balkan Line” on Wednesday, March 20. He had cherished this idea for seven years and not only played the part of the commander of the special forces unit Colonel Aslanbek Yetkhoev, but also acted as the executive produce – as a result of which, as he confessed himself, he had fallen into huge debt.
At the meeting with the audience after the screening, the artist told why he deliberately made a brutal movie full of scenes of murder and violence, how the President of Ingushetia helped him, and how Emir Kusturica ended up in the film. The RIA "Voronezh" reporter recorded the most vivid parts of the conversation.
About the concept of “The Balkan Line”
– The authors of the concept are me and my friend Vasil Cevts. Back in 2012, while sitting in a restaurant, we competed for which of us loved Russia more - he, a Slovak MGIMO graduate, or me. Vasil then asked: "Why don’t you make a serious men’s movie instead of producing only comedies?" This is not a very well-known fact, but I acted as a co-producer in all the films starting with “Antikiller”. “Savages”, “Igra V Pravdu” (Playing the Truth), “Uprazhneniya V Prekrasnom” (Exercising Beauty), “So Mnoyu Vot Chto Proiskhodit” (That's What’s Happening to Me) – these are my favorite films, even though they are comedies. Then me and him thought about what could make a film about. My dream, of course, is to make a film about the collapse of the USSR. But we came up with an idea to make one about 1999, about the bombing of Belgrade, about a serious reversal in Russian politics. I think that was the exact time when Russia was established to become the country in which we live now. By the way, I haven’t given up the idea of making a movie about the collapse of the USSR, and I have a lot of thoughts on this. I just don’t like to share ideas, otherwise, if I tell it, someone may do it.
– Each scene was carefully thought out and written. Everything in this movie has historical evidence one way or another. The “based on actual events” remark refers to the whole plot of the film. Prior to writing the script, in 2013, I outlined the idea to my friend, science fiction writer Ivan Naumov – I could turn to scriptwriters of TV series but didn’t do it deliberately. Ivan wrote a 600-page novel. He did not just take information from the Internet - instead, he examined the materials of the International Criminal Court, studied the situation in detail, and even went there. And so he created the life story of our peacemaker who had stayed in Yugoslavia and lived there for some time. This became the basis of his lyrical novel. I want the Americans to see the film and to see the traces of their actions – the consequences of their “noble” war. The actual truth about how this special operation was carried out is unknown, such things are classified. But everything else in this film is true. So our conscience is clear here.
– I don’t know how many liters of fake blood has been used - this is a question for make-up artists, they have everything recorded in their reports. I can measure in liters only what I drink. We had a serious “vividness” consultant who had been to all the flashpoints and continued to do so. The film is about a war that begins with the bombing of Belgrade. It was a very cruel war, and therefore the film turned out to be brutal from an ethical point of view. I think this film is meant to shock people, sober them up. I have a wise uncle, a friend of my father who has known me since childhood - Professor Alexey Vengerov. Prior to the premiere, he said: “Yury, I will teach you how to answer such questions so that you do not look spineless. Remember: history as a fact is always rougher and merciless than the memory of the people”. And indeed, it is common for people to forget the spilled blood and go forward. Just think of the Great Patriotic War, how tolerant to it we have become, how we are already stretching our arms to each other. Historical facts are merciless, and they remain. If we do not make an honest movie, history will not be captured. If we do not film the truth about such events, the history of our times will be just as brutal. And people need to know the truth. This is the power of my film.
– I had a producer decision to make: I could shorten the film, especially since it turned out to be 3 hours and 10 minutes long after the first assembly. There were debates with the directors and the creative group on this issue. Ideally, a movie should be about two hours long, so that you could also fit advertisements in it. But I made it 2 hours and 30 minutes and did not remove the Serbian theme, the murder of a policeman, the murder of a priest. Otherwis,e it would become a piece of propaganda, and the journalists would be the first to say: “Yeah, he got the state order and worked it out.” No, this is not an order, this is an independent film, an author's idea. Goskino supported us - they gave us 10% of the budget, I raised the rest of the funds through investments. It would be funny if the state did not support us – after all, we were shooting a pro-Russian film. I was very afraid of claims that Gosh Kutsenko made a patriotic movie. It is patriotic in the sense that it talks about real patriots - people who were ready to sacrifice their lives for our Motherland. This patriotism is without quotation marks. I love my country and am glad that we’ve made such an honest film.
About the President of the Republic of Ingushetia
– The film tells about a series of events that have occurred after the bombing of Belgrade. And the main event, of course, was the forced march of our column. During the preparation of the film, we learned that the march was preceded by the capture of the Slatina airfield. We began to take interest in this special operation and found a curious interview with the current President of the Republic of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, in which he very had carefully said that he had received the title of Hero of Russia for this operation. I flew to meet him. We made friends. He made an indelible impression on me. He is a true commander and a very courageous man, an intelligence officer who actually led the operation. However, in the four years of me flying over to see him, he did not say anything about the operation. He just said: "Write the script, I will look into it." To his credit and despite of his busyness, he read the entire script and understood what we were making the film about. He returned the first version of the 250-page script in two weeks with handwritten notes in the margin all over it. And there were a total of 50 or 60 editions. We were making a commercial movie. We did not need documentary thoroughness, the more important thing was the plot which would be interesting to follow, events that would keep the viewer in suspense. We needed military themes, jokes, an atmosphere. This is a war. And there is no avoiding it.
About the deleted scenes
– When they wrote the script, we read actual facts about the opening of the graves of Serbian people, where they had found 400 people with no internal organs. We removed it from the script. There were episodes about organ trafficking in the film - they were also removed. At the time, this topic caused a boom in Europe. We removed it so that the movie did not feel like kitsch. But we’ve kept the scene where the militants are forcing people into the airport. This is an actual fact - those people were supposed to have their organs removed.
About the actors
- At first, Miloš Biković refused to act in the film. As he later admitted at a press conference, "he was afraid of the consequences." And at that point, he told us that this was a very interesting topic, but he could not participate because of being involved in another project. A week later, he called back and said that he agreed. He said: "If I don’t do it, I will not be able to look my children in the eyes." Milena Radulović was approved by me: we had a casting, and I liked her beauty, her acting - she is a very agile actress. And to engage Ravshana Kurkova was the director's wish. By the way, in the first version of the script, we had a love line with a sniper. But I objected: according to the script, all the guys are killed, I’m the only one alive and even get a girl – that’s not normal. Only Anton Pampushny’s character had a successful love line, he and Milena even had an erotic scene – unfortunately, I had to cut it out.
About Emir Kusturica
- We offered Emir to cooperate already during the script stage. After all, this is his country, so we could not ignore such a maestro. As I understand it, he was planning to make a similar movie himself, and so he refused to work with us at first. But then he agreed to participate as an actor, wrote an episode, designed everything by himself. We kept his appearance in the picture as a star guest cameo, a cherry on top, and ended our bloody narration with the presence of a master, a respected person who says wise words to the hero.
About the Serbs’ reaction to the film
- 4 thousand people came to the premiere. I was later told that the film had the effect of a bombshell. They joke that the bombing of Belgrade continues – this time with a very powerful film bomb. When we were planning the film, the situation in Kosovo had mellowed out. And now it has inflated. But the violence shown in the film is about that time. And it is certainly “peacemaking.” In fact, this picture is for peace. I do not want it to serve as a reason for escalation and inflation of problems.
About other cinema works- I don’t know yet whether I will shoot in the continuation of “Sklifosovsky”, because I’m still engaged in “Skoraya Pomoshch” (Ambulance) on NTV. I have a horrible story with these two TV shows. When they “Skoraya Pomoshch”, no one knew how it would go and whether there would be a continuation. And I can’t sit back and wait for the second season to be launched or cancelled: I need to make a living, pay the loans for The Balkan Line. And at that exact momen,t I received an offer to play in “Sklifosovsky”. I was asked if I wanted to try to steal Maxim Averin’s wife. (Laughs.) Who would say no? Well, it did not work the first time, but maybe I will succeed in the next season. “Sklifosovsky” is a cool series, I like doctors in general. I will also be shooting on TNT in the fourth season of “Olga”. Actually, I was supposed to leave in the third season, but the writers did not figure out how to get rid of me, and sent me to "do" my fourth time.