Murina: Alamat Kusijanovic on Facing Fears as an Artist: “I Needed to Make a Movie Underwater”–One of 2022 Best Films

Murina: Alamat Kusijanovic on Facing Fears as an Artist: “I Needed to Make a Movie Underwater”

The DGA Award nominee talks shooting her tense family drama in the waters of her home country, Croatia.


Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina has earned her DGA nomination for first-time feature — an honor she also won at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

For that, she was willing to face her greatest fears: “I’m terrified of the water. I needed to make a movie underwater, because I really wanted to tap into the fear. It’s important to include your fears in your work.”

A coming-of-age story, Murina follows Julija, a teenager living on a remote island in Croatia with her domineering father and subservient mother.

When her dad’s wealthy friend Javier (Cliff Curtis) comes to stay with the family, tensions rise as he offers Julija a possible exit out of her abusive household.

Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović MIKE COPPOLA/GETTY IMAGES

Kusijanović wrote Murina (with Frank Graziano) quickly in order to cast Filipović (now 20, but 16 during filming) while she was still young enough to play Julija. “It’s incredibly challenging to write a script, especially when you’re writing it with a ticking clock — knowing that your main actress is changing every minute,” she explains.

“My main source of inspiration was always, I’m writing this for 16-year-old me. Any woman can relate to that time, no matter what age they are. It is about tapping into [the] resilience you have before you are inevitably broken by life.”

Murina has underwater, in hidden caves, on unforgiving soil that were difficult to capture. Kusijanović hired cinematographer Hélène Louvart (The Lost Daughter, Never Rarely Sometimes Always) to lens her story. “Her specialty is simplifying seemingly very complicated things,” says Kusijanović. “Only through simplicity can you access the real complexity. I was privileged to work with her because it was so important that Gracija’s sensitive and delicate age was captured by the very understanding eye of another woman.”

“We were thinking: ‘OK, there are a bunch of caves on the island, we’re going to go in and shoot it.’ But my grandmother was like, ‘No, shoot at this crevice that is so deep, but it’s open on top so it’s not going to be claustrophobic. Shoot it during the night. It’s going to feel like a cave.’ It was a great setup for the crew and it made sense. My grandmother was right.”