Andrei Huţuleac • Director of #dogpoopgirl
“We couldn’t predict that social media would become so important, so we are still in the process of discovering its potential”
- The actor-turned-director discusses the origins of his feature debut, about the dangers of online shaming
With already a significant theatre and film acting career behind him, Romanian filmmaker and scriptwriter Andrei Huţuleac has presented his low budget feature debut #dogpoopgirl [+see also:
interview: Andrei Huţuleac
film profile] at the Transilvania International Film Festival, which won earlier this year the Best Film and Best Actress awards at the Moscow International Film Festival. Huţuleac shares his thoughts and fears about the online shaming phenomenon and provides insights on his working process.
Cineuropa: #dogpoopgirl is inspired by a real life case that happened in South Korea in 2005. How did you find out about it and what provoked you to make the film?
Andrei Huţuleac: I’ve read Jon Ronson’s book So You've Been Publicly Shamed in which he describes online shaming cases from recent years. And the #dogpoopgirl story is the first ever public shaming case through social media in the history of internet. It involves this girl whose dog pooped in the metro of Seoul, a vlogger published a video of it online and within a month, her life literally fell apart. She started being recognised on the street and was expelled from her university, her family even received death threats. The whole fuss about the case stopped when she posted on social media that if that continued, she would kill herself. And people just let it die. I wrote the script in 2017 at the moment when social media was gaining more and more power, since I wanted to emphasise its downsides and show how some people could get simply killed in the process.
After doing research on the topic, do you have your own explanation for this phenomenon?
I’m not sure I do because I am not an anthropologist. But I think it’s a new instrument which we haven’t learned how to use yet. We couldn’t predict that social media would become so important, so we are still in the process of discovering its potential. I am not saying that society is all wrong in its actions but we still have lessons to learn and we need to put some effort into it.
You transferred a real story that happened in Asia into the Romanian context. Do you think that local audiences can identify with the situation?
I haven’t even thought about it since that was not my original purpose. I rather wanted to underline a certain kind of problematic behaviour which is universal. But of course, taking place in a particular location, the plot resonates to the environment. And as a social satire, #dogpoopgirl is definitely exaggerated. But I think that the people who connect with the film see the problem more as a problem about the internet society, rather than about Romanian society.
How did you develop the script after discovering the case?
I started to research the case but I was not aiming to reconstruct the real story. I just took it as a pretext to make a film on the issue and since it is very loosely inspired by the real events, I do not mention that in the film itself. It would have been manipulative to do so as it is just a fiction based on an idea. I wrote the script out of fear because I was myself in a situation in which I was shamed online and I also shamed people without realising it. I thought I was absolutely right about a certain subject. The internet provides this power to set things straight and do it in one second. But then you realise that people are hurt in the process and you might not be right and you start regretting and deleting your posts because you are sorry, but it’s too late. It’s something that makes me very aware of what I can become in the internet space and what other people can make of me. In this regard, the script emerged from that fear of mine, and my terrified scream adds some exaggeration to it. What if things go that far and that wrong? Because some part of me is socially awkward when surrounded by people and I am very sensitive to aggressive behaviour. I think I would react exactly like my character does in this situation, I would just freeze.
The actress Andreea Grămoşteanu is very good at transmitting this fear. Did you have her in mind while writing the script?
Not really. I just had the vague idea that I needed an experienced actress who would be able to go through this roller coaster and also be very realistic acting-wise. Andrea was my partner on stage and I disregarded the general prejudice that theatre actors are not authentic in front of the camera. I am a theatre actor myself and I think that actually better results could be achieved with actors trained in the theatre. Andrea’s character is tragic and I think she expresses it very well. Also, my initial instinct about the character was rather linear but it grew more diverse and complex thanks to her talent. She also took out the predictability of the script.
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