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Melissa de Raaf and Razvan Radulescu, directors

Estoril Film Festival 2009 - Cineuropa Prize

Interview with Melissa de Raaf and Razvan Radulescu, co-writers and directors of First of All, Felicia, Cineuropa Award winner at the Estoril Film Festival 2009

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Melissa de Raaf (Holland) and Razvan Radulescu (Romania), directors and scriptwriters together of First of All, Felicia [+see also:
film review
interview: Melissa de Raaf and Razvan …
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, which Cineuropa has chosen as the Best Film of the Estoril Film Festival in Portugal. This is the first time that Cineuropa gives a prize, which will consist in a Focus on the film, and we are very happy to give this prize to a film we found fantastic.

Nothing happens in the story, we must say, it lasts only a few hours – [from] the morning, 9 am, until 5 in the afternoon. The only thing that happens is that a woman loses her flight from Bucharest to Amsterdam, but these hours are filled with so many things that you understand what has happened in Romania in the last 30 years, what is the life of somebody who has gone, who was born in Bucharest and stayed in the Netherlands for 20 years, what is the relationship established between somebody who lives abroad and comes back home, and so on. So, nothing happens, but a lot of things you understand through the film.

Cineuropa: Melissa, how did you get this idea, and where did it come from?
Melissa de Raaf: We started to speak with each other about many things, about acting, about time, about death, about family…and through that this story came about. All what I have mentioned is in the film.
Razvan Radulescu: Indeed we had planned at a certain point to make an experiment about some sort of temporal grammar, time grammar, how time can be warped in dramaturgy in order to accommodate fiction. Because I do believe that dramaturgy, as we see it now, is very limited to a formula that works, which is the three-act story. But this formula doesn’t have to do, we think, with the very essence of dramaturgy. We did the first experiment, related more to acting and to cutting, in a short film we made, which is called Networking Friday. It’s not really a short film, it’s 24 minutes, but it takes exactly what it takes, and this was the first moment we started, lets say, a convention of acting that shifts the strong accents from gestures, from the strong accents of the voice.

De Raaf: We believed that [the way] to implement all these ideas was to keep it very close, to ourselves, to people we love. The fact is, that there is always some kind of a shift, when you do a loving gesture, or you think you do a loving gesture to somebody you love, this other person doesn’t see it as such. We wanted to do this experiment by researching this question.

Radulescu: Mostly it happens when people lose contact with each other for a while. Of course, this is the very situation of the film. I mean, it’s not about one of us leaving the family behind and going to another country, it’s just leaving for one year from home because you move to another city in the same country. It’s basically what happens to all children when they go to work and they rent a place and then they marry and their parents stay in another neighbourhood. Then we see each other every Sunday, we get into this kind of formal relation, and [when] you go home every Sunday, you are a guest.

But in the film there is also a lot of Romania. There are just a few sentences that the father says and Felicia says but you can understand a lot about Romania – much more than there is about the Netherlands. You came to this by working together?
De Raaf: I think the film should be very specific, and Felicia being Romanian should be specific…

Radulescu: She’s a Romanian in Romania who happens to have spent nineteen years in the Netherlands. So, I do believe that you understand [about] her reality there whatever her mother understands or her father understands [about] her reality there. This is what you are supposed to get, no more than that. Because we do believe that in this movie you should also be on mother’s side, not only on Felicia’s side. You should also understand the impossible limits of the mother, the mother cannot do otherwise. She is really condemned to be what she is because she doesn’t have anything else to think about. I mean, Felicia for sure never took the time to explain to the mother how she is, she probably didn’t tell her how her life is so unhappy there, for many reasons. She didn’t speak those very personal things anymore…I think she tried to appear happy, to hide, because she knew or she believed this is what is expected of her. This is how it works, so the way Holland is pictured in the movie is the way the mother sees it.

Yes, the Netherlands are alien…
Radulescu: Yes, the Netherlands are alien. This is a story to be told: while financing that movie there were some offers of financing coming from Germany, for instance, with the condition of course that Felicia should be German, not even Dutch, she should be German! Why is not Felicia German? Because they said…she can come from any country! But I don’t think that a German is an alien to anyone in Europe, the Netherlands is an alien country, language-wise also. I mean, she could come from Italy, but not even because we all understand Italian. But Dutch? Not even Germans understand Dutch! Some things, but it’s [usually]: “What is this language?”, “What are they speaking?”

What is your next film and are you going to work together?
Radulescu: We have two other projects in development, one that happens in the Netherlands, and you will see that the elements will be Dutch. All the cultural references will be Dutch and then it will be my [turn] to do my homework and learn and observe them and see deeply how they move.

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