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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Romania / Switzerland / Turkey / France

Andrei Cohn in post-production with period drama Gefilte Fish

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- The film explores a conflict between a Jewish innkeeper and his Romanian servant at the beginning of the 20th century

Andrei Cohn in post-production with period drama Gefilte Fish
Nicoleta Lefter, Doru Nicolae Bem and Mario-Gheorghe Dinu in Gefilte Fish (© Mandragora)

After a first feature set in the present day, Back Home [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrei Cohn
interview: Andrei Cohn
film profile
]
(2015), and a second set in the 1980s, Arrest [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrei Cohn
film profile
]
(2019), Romanian director Andrei Cohn delves even deeper into his country’s problematic history with Gefilte Fish, which is now in post-production. The project is being staged by Mandragora, represented by Anca Puiu, with Bord Cadre Films (Switzerland), Zeynofilm (Turkey) and Shellac Films (France) serving as co-production companies.

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The screenplay, written by Cohn, is based on An Easter Torch, a novella written by Ion Luca Caragiale, probably Romania’s most famous playwright. The story focuses on Leiba Zibal (Doru Nicolae Bem), a Jewish innkeeper in a provincial town at the beginning of the 20th century. Set against the backdrop of the “hostile tolerance” (as the era’s politicians put it) between the Romanian and the Jewish communities, the film will explore how a petty conflict between Leiba and his Romanian servant, Gheorghe (Corneliu Ciprian Chiricheş), will exacerbate their already strained relationship, threatening to ignite a conflict between the Jews and the Romanians.

The film’s budget amounts to a little over €1 million. The Romanian National Film Center supported Gefilte Fish with a grant to the tune of €400,000. The shoot took place in a village in Constanţa county in April and May this year, with Andrei Butică serving as DoP. Supporting characters are played by Nicoleta Lefter, Ana Ciontea, Ion Coman and Cristina Flutur.

Stressing that this period drama would normally have needed a budget twice as big in order to accommodate the impressive number of extras and the special effects required by the story, producer Anca Puiu gushes to Cineuropa about the film’s costumes, created by Viorica Petrovici, and Cristian Niculescu’s production design, “both of paramount importance in creating the atmosphere that Andrei [Cohn] wanted”.

The director says that the purpose of his film was to show how “a Jew would navigate the hostile, anti-Semitic waters at the beginning of the 20th century and to explore whether this discussion [on antisemitism] is still relevant today. I didn't try to correct history in any way; I don't consider it is cinema's job to do that.” Asked whether he was tempted to show the violence of the conflict between the Jews and the Romanians in an explicit way, the director explained: “My purpose was not to evoke a certain event objectively, but rather the emotions felt by someone in relation with that event. I was more interested in perceived violence…”

According to Puiu, Gefilte Fish will be released domestically in the spring of 2024, by Iadasarecasa, Mandragora’s distribution arm. The international sales are being handled by Shellac Films.

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