Otac na sluzbenom putu (When Father was Away on Business) (1985)




Director:  Emir Kusturica.

Starring:  Moreno D'E Bartolli (Malik), Miki Manojlovic (Mehmed-Mesa Zolj, otac), Mirjana Karanovic (Senija Sena Zolj, majka), Mustafa Nadarevic (Zijah Zijo Zulfikarpasic, daidza), Mira Furlan (Ankica Vidmar), Predrag Lakovic (Franjo, kucepazitelj), Pavle Vujisic (Muzamer Zulfikarpasic, dedo), Slobodan Aligrudic (Ostoja Cekic), Eva Ras (Ilonka Petrovic), Aco Djorcev (Dr. Ljahaov), Aleksandar Dorcev (Doktor Ljahaov), Emir Hadzihafisbegovic (Mladji ujak), Zoran Radmilovic (Brko, Pilot), Jelena Covic (Natasha), Tomislav Gelic (Hamdo, berberin).

a young boy whose father was sent to prison by Tito thinks he's away on business


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Sarajevo, June 1950.  A young boy named Malik born in 1944 has a best friend named Joza.  Joza's father is sent away to a concentration camp.  Malik's father is named Mesa and his mother is Sena.  Malik lives with them in a house with his older brother Muza and his grandfather Muzafer.  His father is a real womanizer.  His current conquest is Ankica who he has been seeing for a couple of years.  She wants him to get a divorce so that they can marry, but Mesa keeps putting her off. 

Malik and his family come to an air show.  Mesa's brother-in-law, the Communist official Zolj, is there to help introduce Ankica, the first woman in their part of the Balkan Peninsula to fly a glider.  It turns out that Zolj and Ankica are now together.  When Zolj and Ankica are being driven in a jeep, she remarks that Mesa had told her that one of the cartoons in the newspaper that had criticized Stalin had gone too far.  This type of remark in Yugoslavia was dangerous as anyone could be condemned as being "pro-Stalinist" and placed in a concentration camp.  Zolj makes note of it. 

Malik has an incident of sleep walking which worries his mother and brother.  After they find him, the older brother "bells" the sleep walker by hanging up a bell on the wall attached to a long piece of rope that they tie to Malik's foot when he is sleeping. 

Mesa goes missing and Sena visits her brother Zolj who is living with Ankica to ask him where her husband is and why she has not seen him lately.  He tells her not to come see him again.  After all, he is a "soldier of the Party".  Malik believes that his father is away on business. 

Sena's other brother Fahro returns home from his service in the armed forces.  She tells him that they have taken her husband away.  After a long time, Sena finally receives a letter from her husband.  She is relieved to know that at least he is still alive.  She sells their carpets in order to visit her husband at the labor camp in Lipnica. 

Zolj has married Ankica.  Mesa tells his wife about his relationship with Ankica.  Then Sena pays a visit to Ankica at her work as a physical education teacher and pummels her with Malik helping out by biting Ankica. 

Joza's father has died in a labor camp, but the family has no body.  So they carry out a mock funeral with an empty coffin, but do not record the funeral in the official statistics. 

Sena and the boys move out of their house to be with Mesa.  When leaving, Sena refuses to shake the hand of her brother Zolj.  Mesa is very happy to see his family again.  He introduces them to a doctor friend of his.  They then cross over the Duna River.  Malik takes an interest in the doctor's very sick little girl named Masa. 

September 2, 1951.  Malik falls in love with Masa and worries when she gets a bad nose bleed.

Mesa is making trips to purchase food at Koviljaca and his wife is worried that he is whoring around on her.  So Mesa says he will take Malik along with him on his next trip so she can rest assured that nothing will happen.  Mesa and Malik together with the doctor and the Communist official Ostoja travel to Koviljaca.  There they meet three girls, one of whom has sex with Mesa.  (But not before Malik tries to stop it by setting fire to the woman's dress.)  Later Mesa's good time is spoiled by the report that Malik is gone.  Everyone goes to look for him.  Malik is found sleep walking once again, this time out in the woods.  Back home, Sena confronts her husband about cheating on her and Mesa starts manhandling her.  Malik throws himself on his mother to stop the quarrel. 

One night Malik sleep walks his way over to Masa's house and into her bed.  Malik is glad when his father stops going on purchasing trips.  He has been getting good grades in school and is given the honor of presenting the baton to the Mayor in a ceremony on behalf of the youth group the Pioneers.  In the ceremony itself he messes up his speech and is very upset with himself.   

Mesa is thrilled when Ostoja tells him that his mandate has expired and he can now go wherever he wants to travel.  Masa is sick and she dies. 

July 22, 1952.  Natascha marries Malik's uncle Fahro.  Sena is very pregnant.  Present at the wedding is Zolj and Ankica.  Mesa asks Zolj why he engineered his being sent to a labor camp.  Zolj denies it, but Mesa knows the truth.  Mesa tries to get Sena to make up with her brother and, although she refuses at first, she does make a half-hearted attempt to talk to Zolj.  Zolj is very unhappy and has a hard time sleeping at night (probably from feeling guilty).  Mesa confronts Ankica for ratting on him to Zolj.  He slaps her around, but then has sex with him.  She tells him that she loves him.  Malik sees dad with Ankica.  Grandfather leaves for a old folks home in Travnik saying he is tried of all the family "politics". 

Malik goes sleep walking once again, but this time he suddenly turns around and smiles at the audience letting everyone know that his sleep walking was just an act to help mediate the family conflicts. 


Good movie.  Seeing the effects of Tito's repressive policies on the family of the young boy Malik was a good way to make the political situation in Yugoslavia at the time come to life.  The family was in trouble because of the philandering of the father and this was made worse by the jealous brother-in-law having Dad sent to a labor camp for a "pro-Stalinist" statement.  The acting was good all around.  Moreno D'E Bartolli as Malik gave a solid performance. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


1892  -- birth of Jospi Broz Tito in Kumrovec, Croatia, then part of Austria-Hungary.  His father was a Croat, but his mother was a Slovinian. 

1907  --  Tito became a machinist's apprentice in Sisak. 

1910  --  Tito joined the Social-Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia. 

1913  --  Tito conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army. 

1914  --  outbreak of WWI.  Tito arrested for anti-war propaganda.  He was imprisoned in the Petrovaradin fortress. 

1915  --  Tito fought against the Russians, was wounded and then captured along with his entire battalion by the Russians. 

1916  --  the dissolution of the Communist Second International. 

1916 (autumn) to 1971 (November)  -- Tito was in various prisons or work camps. 

1917 (November)  --  Tito joins the Russian army in Siberia. 

1918  -- Tito joins the Russian Communist Party. 

1919 (March)  --  Lenin and the Russian Communist Party created the international Comintern (Communist International or Third International).

1935  -- the last of seven Comintern World Congresses. 

1935  -- Tito worked in the Balkan section of the Comintern. 

1936  --  Tito sent back to Yugoslavia to purge the Communist Party there.

1937  --  Tito was a good Stalinist and faithfully followed the policies of the Comintern policy.

1939 (August)  --  Hitler-Stalin pact of non-aggression signed. 

1939 (September 1)  --  German and Russia invade Poland starting World War II. 

1941  --  the Germans overran Yugoslavia after eleven days of resistance.  The Germans set up an puppet republic of Croatia under the fascist Utasha party, a militant wing of the Croatian Party of Rights.  This republic was given control of the Serbian dominated region of Bosnia.  The republic was intensely loyal to Germany.  They provided troops and other support to the German cause. 

1941 (June 22)  --  Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

1941 (July 7)  -- in charge of the military in Yugoslavia, Tito and his partisans begin a widespread guerrilla war against the foreign occupiers.  

1943 (May)  --  dissolution of the Comintern. 

1943 (December 4)  --  Tito proclaimed a provisional democratic Yugoslav government.

1944  --   a picture shows Tito using a telephone in the cave headquarters of his partisan army fighting against the Germans and the pro-German Croats and other. 

1945  -- end of the war in Europe. 

1945 (November)  -- after the elections, Tito became Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

1947 (July)  --   there was a dispute between the different Communist party leaders in Europe about whether or not to attend the Paris Conference on Marshall Aid. 

In response, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin calls for a conference of Communist party leaders. 

1947 (September)  --   Communist leaders met in Szklarska Poreba, Poland.  They decide to create the Soviet-dominated Cominform, an organization of Communist parties.  This organization was also known as the Communist Information Bureau.  It was the first official forum of the international communist movement since the dissolution of the Comintern.  The Cominform was first located in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. 

1948 (June)  --  Yugoslavia expelled from the Cominform for "Titoism".  Stalin felt that Tito was moving too fast on the Stalinist proposal to unite Yugoslavia with Albania and Bulgaria and Tito's pushing revolution in Greece.  The seat of the Cominform moved to Bucharest, Hungary.  This sequence of events started the Informbiro period in Yugoslavia. 

1948-1955  --  the Informbiro period in Yugoslavia.  The Informbiro was an abbreviation for Information Bureau. 

During this period, Tito repressed dissent and deported many pro-Soviet members to labor camps.   In the name of fighting the Russians, Tito put between 12,000 to 14,000 people in labor camps under the most deplorable conditions. 

1949  --  the entire island of Goli otok (meaning literally "barren island") off the northern Adriatic coast was made into a concentration camp to house political prisoners.  

1956  --  Khrushchev reconciled with Tito.

1974 (May 16)  --  a new Constitution passed that named Tito President for life. 

1980  --  death of Tito. 

1988  --   the Goli otok concentration camp finally closed. 


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