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When Father Was Away on Business

When Father Was Away on Business (Serbo-Croatian: Otac na službenom putu: ljubavno istorijski film, Отац на службеном путу) is a 1985 Yugoslavian film by Serbian director Emir Kusturica. The screenplay was written by Abdulah Sidran. Its subtitle is A Historical Love Film.


Set in post-World War II Bosnia during the Informbiro period, the film tells the story through the eyes of a young boy Malik whose father Meša (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 serenading field workers with Mexican songs because it's "safer" as the children climb trees and play around.

The story is from the perspective of the boy, Malik, who is led to believe that his father is on a business trip. Malik is a chronic sleepwalker.

After a while, Meša's wife and children rejoin him in Zvornik, where Malik meets Maša, the daughter of a Russian doctor. He falls in love with her, last sees her when the ambulance takes her away.

At the wedding of his uncle, Malik witnesses his father's affair with the pilotess, who afterwards tries to kill herself with the toilet's flush cord. Sena reconciles with her brother, who's been diagnosed with diabetes.



The film took home two awards from the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 including the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) and the FIPRESCI Prize, while also being nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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