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Daniel Sandu • Director of One Step Behind the Seraphim

"We run on fumes. We breathe in aerosols and breathe out films"


- First time director Daniel Sandu explains to Cineuropa the peculiarities of his feature One Step Behind the Seraphim

Daniel Sandu  • Director of One Step Behind the Seraphim
(© Cornel Lazia)

One of the most promising young Romanian directors, Daniel Sandu, uses his first feature, One Step Behind the Seraphim [+see also:
film review
interview: Daniel Sandu
film profile
, to invite the domestic audience into an unfamiliar, almost mysterious space: an Orthodox theological seminary where teenage boys study to become priests. Here is what the director has to say about the many challenges of making his coming-of-age drama.

Cineuropa: Perhaps the first question your film raises is: how much of it is fiction?
Daniel Sandu:
More than 80% of it is real and less than 20% fiction. In order to be able to compress five years of my life into a two-and-a-half-hour screenplay, I had to slightly alter the chronological order of some events, some of the characters were built by merging two real people, and I changed the names of the real characters. Even the name of the lead character, Gabriel, is actually my second given name.

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How difficult was it to choose the relevant moments?
The universe portrayed in the film is more than generous. The greatest challenge I faced was ignoring my subjective perception of the events and managing them objectively. Otherwise, things that were important to me may have proven to be uninteresting for the audience. Then I set about selecting the themes worth using and the ones that could be discarded. The screenplay was what I call a “living screenplay”, as every time I dropped a certain direction of the story, another sprung up to take up the space that had just been vacated. I even worked on the script while the footage was in the editing room, long after finishing the shoot.

Do you think your film will cause a debate about the corruption in the Romanian Orthodox Church?
I don’t really believe in debates. I find that, while some people are debating, others are acting. As long as most Romanians are looking to the church for spiritual relief, as long as it continues to be the most trusted institution in the country, as long as the real estate it controls continues to grow, things will not change, and the church will carry on with initiatives like the amendment of the Constitution of Romania, a secular state. The Orthodox Church plans for the long term, much longer than a lifetime, and is minimally interested in the situation of the current mortals. Despite all of this, my film is not meant to point fingers at the church. It merely offers a “trip” through the assembly line that builds its future servants.

As a first-time director, what is the biggest issue in the Romanian film industry?
I find it shameful that Bucharest does not have even one arthouse cinema where you can screen films at an excellent level of technical quality. It just doesn’t. Period. And what more can I say about financial support after all that has been said by all the important figures in Romanian cinema? We run on fumes. We breathe in aerosols and breathe out films.

You are already working on a new feature, The Father Who Moved Mountains. What are some of the challenges of it?
We are currently in the casting phase. It will be more difficult to shoot than One Step.... Firstly because the action takes place in the mountains, during blizzards and heavy snow, and secondly because I will use a shooting script that is completely different from anything I have done so far. All in all, we are setting out to raise the standard for spectacular visuals in Romanian cinema.

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