James Cameron talks to Murina director Antoneta Kusijanovic

Though from different worlds, Avatar director James Cameron and Murina boss Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović bonded over their shared passion for filmmaking during a video interview (below) hosted by Disney+ ahead of the Independent Spirit Awards.

Released in the US by Kino Lorber, “Murina” vies for three Spirit Awards – First Motion Picture, Breakthrough Achievement and Cinematography. The film premiered at Cannes, where it won the Camera d’Or and a Gotham Award for its young star, Gracija Filipović.

The film is set on a remote island off the Croatian Adriatic coast, where 17-year-old Julija spends her days diving for eels and longs to break free from her domineering father, Ante. When a rich and mysterious guest, Javier, comes to visit, he seems to offer Julija a way out. But Javier’s presence triggers a battle of male egos that pushes Ante to humiliate and control his daughter even more.

Cameron, whose latest film Avatar: The Way of Water is nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, asked the New York-based filmmaker why she wanted to create a “four-character drama” with the “extra burden of… Filming” underwater.” Kusijanović said she grew up in Croatia and was “always around the water” but eventually got “water scared”. Kusijanović said creativity “always comes from fear”. “To create something with urgency and excitement, you have to let go of the fear,” she continued.

Speaking of the symbolic resonance of water, Cameron said, “We always connect to it in an almost Jungian way.” So I think ‘Murina’ speaks to all things.”

The Oscar-winning director of Titanic said, “Every film is a personal journey.” He recalled a recurring nightmare early in his career “of a huge wave coming in for shore and no time to get away, and no matter how fast you climbed, and you see it hit behind you.”

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Then he did The Abyss in 1988, and in it “there’s a huge wave sequence where [he] processed the image of a wave that is about to hit but then stops.”

“Avatar,” on the other hand, arose from his “nagging concern about the state of our world and what we are losing: the beauty and complexity and diversity of nature that we are systematically destroying.”

The Canadian director also praised Murina’s feminist message and the determination that emanates from Filipović’s performance.

“I don’t think anyone leaves the theater thinking Julija won’t make it. She’s going to do it because she’s determined,” Cameron said. “First, like many women in life, she tries to escape through a man. Men have the power, they can take you out of your life, change your existence, all those things and she bets so much on it and in the end all she’s left with is herself and her decision to just swim, just walk, and me Love, symbolic.”

Represented by UTA, Kusijanović is developing her second outing, among other projects ranging from film to television.