The Fixer: Morality’s muddy waters
by Giampietro Balia
- Romanian filmmaker Adrian Sitaru follows a sex scandal involving two underage prostitutes that gives a trainee journalist his big chance to make a name for himself at a French news network
2016 is a great year for Adrian Sitaru; after winning the CICAE Award at the Berlinale with Illegitimate [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru
film profile], the Romanian director has scored another big festival hit with The Fixer [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru
interview: Tudor Aaron Istodor
film profile], selected in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Radu Patru (Tudor Istodor) is an obdurate Romanian trainee at an international French news network. Driven by his passion for standing out, he puts himself at the disposal of his superiors, hoping to soon feed them a major story and eventually prove that he’s ready to lead his first real news report. But his overwhelming longing to excel has inadvertently compromised his relationship with his son, who feels he’s never good enough for his father. When two underage Romanian prostitutes are repatriated from France, Patru sees the long-awaited chance for his big break, and he crams in order to be ready for when the French TV crew, led by a top reporter, comes to Transylvania. Thanks to his in-depth knowledge of the area, and to his many connections, the young trainee quickly gets in touch with the family of one of the girls, and he seems to be ready to do whatever it takes to secure the interview. But, as he garners information about the case, he experiences at first hand the suffering endured by one of the prurient girls. The emotional burden of this headline-grabbing sex scandal forces Patru to stop and reconsider the morality behind the way he’s conducting both his job and his personal relationship with his son.
Exploring the moral ground sustaining journalism, often overshadowed by the insatiable craving for fresh, entertaining news, Sitaru tackles the debate of where the thin line between reporting and the morbid interest in other people’s lives and tragedies lies. Exploitation is at the heart of the film – it is no coincidence that the two underage girls at the centre of the story were forced into prostitution. It is therefore easy to see the parallel between the sexual exploitation they suffered in Paris and the media exploitation they are being exposed to; even the techniques that Patru uses to talk the young girl into giving the interview are the same as the ones her pimp used to persuade her into selling her body.
Adrian Silisteanu, who already lensed all of Sitaru’s previous feature films, breathes life into the locations in which the story unfolds. The unkempt people who make their bedraggled appearances in the film are framed with the use of natural lighting and handheld camera movements, giving the impression of watching an actual news report taking place right before our eyes. Thespian Tudor Istodor, for whom acting runs in the family, gives a sober and sterling performance, using subtle nuances in his facial expressions to convey the major emotional and psychological ebb and flow his character undergoes throughout the film.
Shot in early 2015 in Bucharest and Bistrita, the film portrays Eastern European locations and illustrates unique social conditions, but thanks to the universality of the topic at the core of the film, The Fixer could also beguile non-Romanian audiences beyond the festival circuit. Scripted by Claudia Silişteanu and Adrian Silişteanu, Sitaru’s film was produced by 4 Proof Film, and its international sales are handled by Paris-based MPM Film.