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PRODUCTION Romania

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Ruxandra Ghiţescu in development with her first feature, Otto the Barbarian

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- The project is the only Eastern European production to have been selected for the Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier

Ruxandra Ghiţescu in development with her first feature, Otto the Barbarian
Director Ruxandra Ghiţescu

In a year when Romanian cinema is dominated by first features, the local film industry seems determined to prove that the wave of new voices is stronger than ever: Ruxandra Ghiţescu’s Otto the Barbarian is now in development, slated for a 2018 shoot. The Alien Film production is the only Eastern European project – and one of the only two European projects – selected this year for the Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier (see the news).

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The screenplay, written by Ghiţescu, focuses on the title character, Otto, a 17-year-old punk involved in a social-services investigation into the death of his girlfriend, Laura. Feeling hemmed in by the pressure of his and Laura’s relatives, Otto finds solace in obsessively watching and editing video recordings of her. As a social worker, Costin, slowly finds a way to communicate with the teenager, Otto will have to face his feelings and guilt.

Producer Iuliana Tarnoveţchi tells Cineuropa that the first day of principal photography is planned for the end of the year, with a longer shooting period scheduled for next March. She also says that the casting is almost finished, while the team’s presence at Cannes is of paramount importance for finding co-production partners. The budget amounts to €800,000, with approximately €86,000 coming from the Romanian National Film Center.

Ghiţescu says she has always been attracted to coming-of-age stories, especially those about generation gaps. Although the screenplay is entirely fictional, an Otto does exist in real life. “My story explores how we plan our life, the social masks we use and our perpetual search for self.” The use of social masks is underlined by the protagonist’s name, which changes depending on his relationships: while his real name is Octavian, his parents call him Tavi and his friends refer to him as Otto, but he becomes “the barbarian” as soon as he challenges those near him.

The domestic release of Otto the Barbarian is expected for 2019.

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