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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Romania / Greece / France / Bulgaria / Czech Republic

Mihai Mincan in pre-production with his fiction debut, To the North


- The movie will tell the story of a Romanian stowaway on a transatlantic ship

Mihai Mincan in pre-production with his fiction debut, To the North
Director Mihai Mincan

Known so far for his documentary features (Bondoc, Emigrant Blues, The Man Who Would Be Free [+see also:
film profile
), Romanian director Mihai Mincan is currently in pre-production with his fiction debut, To the North (working title). The project, one of Romania’s biggest co-production efforts to date, is being staged by deFilm, with Radu Stancu serving as producer, and is co-produced by StudioBauhaus (Greece), Remora Films (France), Screening Emotions (Bulgaria) and Background Films (Czech Republic). As the budget is still a work in progress, the order of the co-production countries may change before the film’s April and May shoot.

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The screenplay, written by Mincan, centres on a religious Filipino sailor working on a transatlantic ship, who happens upon Dumitru, a young Romanian stowaway. Moved by the fact that the frightened Dumitru is clutching a Bible, the sailor starts playing a dangerous game in order to save the boy’s life. The two protagonists are played by Filipino actor Soliman Cruz and by German-Romanian actor Niko Becker. Bart Guingona and Noel Sto Domingo play other significant parts in the film.

The project has a budget estimated at €1.8 million, with circa €445,000 coming from the Romanian National Film Center. Through its co-production companies, the project also received support from the Czech Film Fund, the Bulgarian National Film Center and the Greek Film Centre. To the North will be shot over 29 days in April and May, in ports in Romania and Greece.

Producer Radu Stancu tells Cineuropa that the film’s long preparation window (the project received funding as early as 2016) shielded To the North from “the turmoil that affected the industry last year. The project has become so solid during these years that we found it easier to adapt the production to the script, and not vice versa, as is usually the case. Although the working schedule and the logistics suffered greatly because of the pandemic, the project did not suffer at all from a creative point of view.”

Mincan says his film is inspired by an event that took place in 1996, involving a Filipino sailor on a Taiwanese container ship and an Eastern European stowaway. The director also mentions that one of his own cousins illegally sailed to the United States on board a similar ship. “He told me that the huge fear he felt at that time, the fear of being discovered and thrown into the ocean, transformed him into someone completely different, sort of a human beast, ready to renounce all his moral values for one single purpose: survival,” explains the helmer.

To the North is expected to complete post-production in early 2022. The feature will be sold internationally by Luxbox.

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