“It's a film made by youngsters, about youngsters and for a young audience”
by Stefan Dobroiu
- With A Month in Thailand, his first feature unveiled in Venice, the Romanian filmmaker stands out in stark contrast to his country's usual productions.
Paul Negoescu was born in 1984 and graduated from the Caragiale Academy of Theatrical Arts and Cinematography in Bucharest. His Horizon, Derby and Renovation were presented in the short film competitions at Cannes and Berlin, the last two productions receiving nominations at the European Film Awards in 2009 and 2011. His first feature, A Month in Thailand [+see also:
interview: Paul Negoescu
film profile], was included in the International Critics' Week sidebar at this year's Venice film festival. Negoescu is also a producer and the artistic director of the Timishort Film Festival.
Cineuropa: How difficult is it to make a first feature in Romania?
Paul Negoescu: It wasn't easy at all. Financing came really hard and everything was put together just before shooting was supposed to begin. For a long time I had no idea how big the budget I could count on was. And I'm one of the fortunate ones, because I was indeed able to release a first feature at my age, 27. The film's budget was rounded up with the help of financing coming from people who liked my shorts. If I hadn't shot those shorts, it would have been impossible to make the feature. I think that if it was difficult for me to get financing for A Month in Thailand, for other colleagues of mine, who haven't been as lucky as I was, would be even harder. The regulations of the National Film Center do not encourage young directors in any way.
A Month in Thailand is different from other recent Romanian films. In which ways do you think it has become part of the Romanian cinematic landscape?
I think the novelty is the film's topic, it's about young people. We've had some new Romanian films about young characters, but they haven't been well received by the audience and critics. What's different now is that I am part of that generation and more connected with its reality than those directors. It's not only me, the entire team of this project is very young. It's a film made by youngsters, about youngsters and for a young audience. Moreover, there are moviegoers who reject new Romanian productions because they consider them dark or anchored in the past. They can relax now, because A Month in Thailand is quite different.
What are the advantages of making films in Romania? And the disadvantages?
The advantages are financial. It's still cheap to make films in Romania, but there must be other countries where it's even cheaper. But in Romania, you can find experienced professionals and there is no trade union. In terms of production, it's profitable to shoot in Romania. On the other hand, there is no legislation to encourage producers to make their projects here, as there is in other countries which give grants and find ways to attract foreign productions. It's difficult and expensive to receive something as simple as a shooting authorisation in order to be able to shoot on the street. And for a Romanian production, the fact it's shot in Romanian makes it difficult to be released abroad. I don't even want to get started about the lack of infrastructure for releasing films in Romania...
If you had €10 million, which kind of film would you make?
I can't imagine a situation in which someone would give me €10 million and let me shoot whatever I wanted. I probably wouldn't make it in Romania, either. The chances are small that a Romanian film, with Romanian dialogue, would succeed in receiving distribution abroad, without being extremely well received in important festivals. The idea of making a commercial film in Romania seems absurd, given the small number of cinemas for its domestic distribution...
Do you have a new project right now? Are you writing a new screenplay?
I've just finished shooting a new short film in Sarajevo. It's the second part of a trilogy about water, which I began with Horizon. I hope to shoot the final part next year, in Germany. I haven't decided yet about my next feature, I'm still searching for stories. I am curious to see how A Month in Thailand will be received in Romania. If it won't be a success, it means there is no chance to make a successful audience film in Romania and my next project will be more radical.