"Romania is a strange territory"
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Tudor Giurgiu is back with a comedy: Of Snails and Men. He spoke to Cineuropa about domestic success, future projects, and what could improve the Romanian film sector.
Six years after Love Sick, his first feature that was selected for the Berlinale Panorama, Tudor Giurgiu is back with Of Snails and Men [+see also:
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
Cineuropa: What were the biggest challenges to making Of Snails and Men?
Tudor Giurgiu: The biggest challenge was to find the right tone. Making a bitter-sweet comedy was not easy, and I was very preoccupied with capturing the 1990s vibe in Romania. It was a time full of idealism, naivety, and hope. Most people, especially those from small towns, were either dreaming of leaving the country or finding a way to get rich very quickly. I fell in love with Ionut Teianu's script and I knew from the very beginning that such a story (about men selling their sperm in order to save their jobs) needed to be told gently and with empathy.
The next challenge was finding the right actors. I usually hold a thorough casting session to see as many actors as possible who might fit the bill. I knew from the very beginning that Andi Vasluianu would be a great choice for the main lead, as he's such a fine and experienced actor. I'm also happy to have Monica Birladeanu in the role of the car factory manager's beautiful assistant. She was just great, and many people who saw the film fell absolutely in love with her. I've also really enjoyed working with Dorel Visan, one of Romania's best actors, who was nominated a long time ago for Best European Actor for his amazing performance in Mircea Daneliuc's Iacob. And, last but not least, I have to thank my French co-producer Patrick Sobelman (Agat Films & Ex Nihilo), who had this great idea of casting a real father-and-son duo in the film: Jean-Francois Stevenin and Robinson Stevenin. Their chemistry was perfect, even though it was the first time they were acting together in a film.
As a film director and the president of the Transylvania International Film Festival, you know how the film industry works in Romania. What can be done to improve the film sector and to make cinema-goers invest their time and money to watch Romanian films?
Romania is a strange territory. We have many talented filmmakers. Each year, our films receive important awards at major film festivals around the world, but still cinema is not a national priority. Local film institutions are weak and there is no national strategy to improve the film sector's infrastructure, foster young talents, or preserve archives. We now have many more multiplexes than five years ago, but attendance for domestic releases is still dramatically low. We need box office hits, films that are able to bring people back to cinemas to see Romanian films. I don't think we can have a healthy Romanian film sector if we exclude genre or commercial films. We need to build up an audience, but we need a strong strategy. We need leaders and vision, and we don't have this for the moment.
How many admissions would, in your eyes, make Of Snails and Men a domestic success?
Of course, I hope that Of Snails and Men will be a domestic success. I know that many people who saw the film in Cluj thought it was charming and moving. I will be happy if we reach 50,000 admissions, but I secretly dream of more...
What can you tell us about Cristian (working title), your next project?
We are still in the development phase, but our participation at the Berlinale Co-Production Market was very helpful, as it led to many opportunities for co-production. We are currently negotiating with Sombrero Films (France), and I'm happy that they liked the story and found it both very special and universal. It's about the last 20 days in the life of a young prosecutor, the wonder boy of his generation, whose bosses ask him to start a criminal investigation on one of his colleagues, which he refuses to do. It's about the rapid disintegration of a human being who refuses to compromise. It's a political film, based on real events in Romania in 2002, about corruption in the justice system, moral values, and what we trust. We might start shooting next year, all depending on how quickly we can raise the budget.
If you had €5m, what film would you make?
If I had €5m, I'd definitely start on one of the other projects that I'm currently developing: a Spanish-language film, a love story between a Romanian poet who is an immigrant in Spain and two Spanish women. It's an adaptation of a wonderful book, a Romanian best-seller called Apropierea (lit. "Getting closer") by Marin Malaicu Hondrari.