December 17, 2017

Tudor Giurgiu, filmmaker

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

‘Post-Communist Romania was chaos, confusion and innocence’

By Cristiana Visan
Herald Staff
1972, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Theatre and Film Academy, 1995
filmmaker, founder and president of the Transylvania Film Festival
Love Sick (2006), Of Snails and Men (2012)
head of the state-owned

Romanian TelevisionRomanian filmmaker Tudor Giurgiu was lucky enough to arrive to Buenos Aires on a tricky and adrenaline-inducing day, April 10, the day of the national strike, when road blocks on the way to Ezeiza seriously threatened his transfer from the airport. Giurgiu met the Herald before the screening of his film, Of Snails and Men, at the Bafici, to talk about the current make-up of international film festivals, the innocence of post-dictatorship times and the future of the glorified “new wave” of the Romanian cinema.

As the chief of another film festival, how was the Bafici experience for you?

After seeing and going to a lot of festivals you reach a point where you are no longer surprised, awed or scared by any of these events. I already knew it was a large-scale festival, with an agenda including hundreds of films. What I found bizarre, as an English speaker who is not so adroit in Spanish, is that Bafici is not quite accessible for non-Spanish speaking guests or audiences. I have a fair understanding of Spanish, but I can’t speak it, so it was a bit difficult…

What wasn’t quite accessible about the festival?

Oh, well, it took me a while to find my way around their website, it’s not the most user-friendly page as to the ease of navigation, finding the information you need without losing your way around it…

What’s on the plus side?

I would have to go with the visibility and the friendliness of their staff and brand. I don’t know what the level of awareness is among local audiences, but just walking around the city I’ve seen a great deal of street advertising, lots of posters and banners, there’s also a great mobile app for the festival. Moreover — and I’m comparing to my own Transylvania Film Festival now — Bafici has a clear map of venues and it doesn’t seem too difficult getting from one to the other.

How about your insight as a producer?

Well, how can I put this… I was talking to another producer yesterday and he was complaining about a certain lack of accord or consistency in the Argentine film industry and institutions when it comes to having just one place, a hub of sorts, for foreign film industry agents who want to meet Argentine producers and directors here… Argentina, as far as I know, has Bafici, Ventana Sur, Mar del Plata…

You are in fact speaking about a film market?

Yes, but let’s call it a professional gathering, including project pitches and so forth.

You’ve come to Bafici as a film director with a rather intriguing story of a rebellious young man who, threatened by the looming closure of the off-road vehicle factory where he works in post-Communist Romania, comes up with the idea of taking his colleagues to donate sperm to a fertility clinic in order to raise money and buy the factory themselves. How do you think the Bafici audience will receive it?

Hopefully well enough, we’ve had good feedback pretty much everywhere. As for Latin America, we’ve only shown it in Mexico until now and the audience there loved it. Actually, I was the recipient — or should I say, middleman — of a few marriage proposals for my lead actor, Andi Vasluianu.

Of Snails and Men was featured in other film festivals. How was your previous feedback from audiences, did they find this plot absurd, endearing, plausible?

In the US, for instance, I was repeatedly told, ‘This is something that could have just as easily occurred here.’ I found it invigorating to see that the Romanian reality was not as absurd or as period-dependent. It’s actually very likely this film would resonate better with people who share a similar historic background, as opposed to, say, someone from Austria or the UK. I remember a fabulous reaction I got from a woman in the Czech Republic: ‘We sold ourselves and our industry in this exact same way.’ Shared trauma can ensure a better understanding, considering many people can relate to the story of massive lay-offs and candid attempts of survival.

How difficult was it to “rebuild” the image of a 1992 Romania?

Actually, that was the hardest part (laughs). Location scouting was the worst; we couldn’t find any buildings without double glazed windows. As incredible as that may sound, Romania has officially become the country of double glazed windows, with every single self-respecting citizen doing their best to have their windows and doors “upgraded.” I finally reached my limit and said: you know what, I really couldn’t care less any more, let people and history judge me for shooting a double glazed Romania.

What do you remember most about post-Communist Romania of the 1990s?

Oh, you know, it would have been a lot easier to answer this question before doing Of Snails and Men, because the amount of work on this film has definitely tempered with my recollection. It was, probably, the most intense and special time of my life. I remember the chaos and the pervading sense of confusion, the lack of rules, people’s innocence, Bucharest as a playground for any activity and initiative. This is what led me to think that my character’s idea of donating sperm for money wouldn’t have been such a far-fetched plan back in the 1990s.

Almost a decade after the advent of the award-winning “new wave” of Romanian cinema, how do you see it today?

I believe Romanian cinema constantly changes and evolves. I’m not sure into what exactly, but you’ll see more diversity in the stories, younger people at the helm of future films which will be more daring, more venturesome and less self-aware, perhaps, than the “new wave” generation of filmmakers. Moreover, expect well established names to try their hand at new genres. For instance, I heard recently that Corneliu Porumboiu was intrigued by the idea of making a musical, I’m sure Cristi Mungiu will also try out new filmic formulas closer to his debut with Occident.

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