From 1986–88, Kusturica played bass guitar in Zabranjeno Pušenje, a rock band from Sarajevo (SR Bosnia and Herzegovina). Although Kusturica played a minor musical role in the band, he returned to the group following the Black Cat, White Cat film and the band's name changed to Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra.
An Innuit hunter races his sled home with a fresh-caught halibut. This fish pervades the entire film, in real and imaginary form. Meanwhile, Axel tags fish in New York as a naturalist's gofer. He's happy there, but a messenger arrives to bring him to Arizona for his uncle's wedding. It's a ruse to get Axel into the family business. In Arizona, Axel meets two odd women: vivacious, needy, and plagued by neuroses and familial discord. He gets romantically involved with one, while the other, rich but depressed, plays accordion tunes to a gaggle of pet turtles.
In this luminous tale set in the area around Sarajevo and in Italy, Perhan, an engaging young Romany (gypsy) with telekinetic powers, is seduced by the quick-cash world of petty crime, which threatens to destroy him and those he loves.
Gérard Mortier, the director of the Paris National Opera, was definitely taking a risk when he invited the Serb film director Emir Kusturica to create a new work here. Put simply, Mortier was also asking a traditionally conservative audience to embrace a so-called gypsy punk opera, with amplified orchestra and voices, pop-up décor, a flock of geese and a heavy dose of Balkan magical realism.