"A narrative structure that was powerful and real"
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Third-time director Tudor Giurgiu presents Why Me?, a film that points the finger at the systemic corruption in 2002 Romania
After founding Romania's most popular film festival, the Transilvania IFF, Tudor Giurgiu directed his first feature, Love Sick, in 2006. In 2011, he released the comedy Of Snails and Men [+see also:
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
film profile], and now he is exploring a new genre with Why Me? [+see also:
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
film profile], a political thriller shown in the Panorama Special sidebar at this year's Berlinale.
Cineuropa: You shot Why Me? in complete secrecy. Were you afraid that the production could have been affected by the reactions of those who inspired the story? Did you ever feel like “someone was watching”?
Tudor Giurgiu: Yes, it’s true, I didn’t want to make waves; I didn’t invite the press onto the set during the shoot, and I tried to be as discreet as possible. I admit I was a little afraid in terms of the major political implications of the subject. I wanted to keep the crew, and especially the actors, far from any media intervention, interviews and telephone calls. We successfully filmed it on the quiet, nobody approached us, and I didn’t once feel like we were under any sort of surveillance. And even if we had been, that wouldn’t have affected our work.
Sometimes it’s easier to make a period film than one set just one decade ago. What were the main challenges of this production?
Obviously, we had problems trying to find an adequate location for the General Prosecutor’s Office, the workplace of our main character, prosecutor Panduru. I knew that we would need it for several days and hoped for a generous space, with lots of possibilities and good shooting angles. The Stock Exchange Palace, built around 1925 and based on the design of a French architect, made for an excellent choice and inspired our set designer, Cristian Niculescu, to come up with some great ideas and proposals. My only limitation was the inability to stop car traffic in very crowded areas, so I had to get used to Dacia Logan cars coming into shot: they hadn’t existed back in 2002.
What persuaded you to offer Emilian Oprea his first leading role?
My instinct. Emilian didn’t audition; we went with him, “all or nothing”. To be fair, I knew him from theatre plays; he’s a mature actor with a lot of experience. I was convinced that he would play the part well, but he ended up surprising us by displaying incredible emotional balance, and smooth and nuanced acting. As much as possible, we tried to film in chronological order; therefore, the ending was shot over the final days. The shooting we did in the real apartment of prosecutor Panduru’s aunt was extremely touching.
The film is based on the case of prosecutor Cristian Panait, but you changed his name to Cristian Panduru – why? Where does the truth stop in the film, and where does the fiction start?
The screenplay is based on the events in Panait's life, after he was assigned to the Lele case (in the film we call it the Leca case). But Why Me? is a fiction film and not a documentary. When I started documenting the Panait case in 2007, I was very tempted to make a re-enactment that was as close to reality as possible. But it took me so much time to understand the legal context and the complicated network of interests in this very controversial case. At some point in 2012, I felt that the closeness to reality had become an obstacle and that I couldn't move on. The huge quantity of information and details on the case started to feel suffocating. I took a break, a few months without thinking about the project, and then I started asking the questions that matter in the end: what is the film about? What makes me want to make it? What is the conflict? The topic? Then I realised that if I wanted to finish the movie, I needed fiction, I needed to add new details and credible elements to a narrative structure that was powerful and real.