A New York thief, a tough-as-nails hundred-year-old woman, two brothers from the Wild West, a revolutionary hell-bent on liberating Macedonia from the Ottoman Empire, and a beautiful pregnant woman all cross paths in a tale that spans two continents and three centuries. Its fractured narrative resembles a Cubist painting.
In present-day New York City, a young criminal, Edge (Adrian Lester), is confronted at gunpoint by an ailing old woman, Angela (Rosemary Murphy), whose apartment he is attempting to burglarize. While he awaits an opportunity to escape, she launches into a tale about two outlaw brothers, Luke and Elijah, at the turn of the 20th century, who travel to Ottoman-controlled Macedonia. The two brothers have transient ill will between them, and they become estranged when confronted with a beautiful woman, Lilith (Anne Brochet).
In the New York storyline, Edge hunts for Angela's gold to pay back a debt, and gradually grows closer to her. In the Macedonian story, the brothers end up fighting for opposite sides of a revolution, with the religious Elijah (Joseph Fiennes) taking up sides with the Ottoman sultan and gunslinger Luke (David Wenham) joining "the Teacher" (Vlado Jovanovski), a Macedonian rebel.Joseph Fiennes as Elijah
David Wenham as Luke
Adrian Lester as Edge
Rosemary Murphy as Angela
Vera Farmiga as Amy
Anne Brochet as Lilith
Nikolina Kujaca as Neda
Vlado Jovanovski as The Teacher
Josif Josifovski as The Priest
Matt Ross as Stitch
The film was written and directed by Milcho Manchevski. The music for the film was composed by Kiril Džajkovski. Principal photography took place in a number of countries and locations, including Cologne, New York City, Mariovo and Bitola.
Dust opened at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2001, and was later released in Italy on April 5, 2002. Pathé distributed the film in the United Kingdom on May 3, 2002. In Spain, the film was released on July 12, 2002 by Alta Classics. It was given a limited release in the United States on August 22, 2003, where it was distributed by Lionsgate.
The film caused controversy when it premiered as the opening film of the 2001 Venice Film Festival. A number of critics accused Manchevski of having a political agenda and using the film to express it. The Evening Standard critic Alexander Walker claimed the film was portraying the Turkish army in a bad light and even called it racist. Several other critics saw the film as taking sides in the current armed conflict in Macedonia, in spite of the fact that the film was filmed before the hostilities began. Charges were nevertheless leveled that Manchevski's film was anti-Moslem, anti-Albanian and anti-Turkish. He did not respond to the accusations in Venice, presumably hoping the film would speak for itself. He, however, did respond later, explaining that the film is even-handed in its portrayal of brutal killers – it does not spare the Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Greeks – or the Americans, for that matter. Even though the reviews (and even some of the original reviewers) were much more favorable and nuanced once the film moved from Venice to the regular theaters, the damage was done, and Dust never achieved the wide distribution expected from the follow-up to the phenomenally successful Before the Rain.
The film received mostly mixed to negative reviews from film critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 21% rating, based on 14 critical reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10. David Stratton of Variety, gave the film a poor review, writing, "Essentially a Euro Western, spectacularly lensed in Macedonia [the] film borrows freely and unwisely from superior predecessors in the genre, while struggling to explore interesting themes involving the personal legacy we hand down to our descendants. [The film's] main problem in positioning itself commercially is that it straddles the genres: It's too arty to cut it as a violent action pic and too gore-spattered to appeal to the arthouse crowd."
Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Dust is a bust, a big bad movie of the scope, ambition and bravura that could be made only by a talented filmmaker run amok." Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times wrote, "Milcho Manchevski's stylized western, Dust, is a potent, assured and ambitious piece of filmmaking brought down by weighted dialogue and, playing Americans, the British actors Adrian Lester and Joseph Fiennes and the Australian David Wenham. This dazzling and dazed movie begins on the streets of contemporary New York, as a camera moseys down a street and then crawls up the side of a building, peering into several windows as various apartment dwellers play out their lives. It's as if Mr. Manchevski were thumbing through a selection of stories as we watch, deciding which appeal to him the most."
Later, though, the film was reassessed in a number of essays focusing on its complex fractured narrative.