The march of New Romanian Cinema continues apace in this quietly gripping drama that steadily descends into a dog-eat-dog netherworld in which matter-of-fact exploitation and reflexive avarice are givens. Two years into a five-year prison sentence, Matilda is given a day pass to attend her mother’s funeral. In the 24 hours that follow, the camera tracks this determined and unsentimental woman as she relentlessly pursues her goal of finding the money she needs to skip the country for good. As single-minded as its protagonist, this brisk, hard-edged, and businesslike film bears many of the hallmarks of the new generation of talented Romanian filmmakers. With his first feature, Bogdan George Apetri deservedly joins their ranks. [Synopsis courtesy of ND/NF]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the 40th edition of New Directors/New Films to submit responses in their own words about their films. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
Director: Bogdan George Apetri
Writers: Bogdan George Apetri and Tudor Voican
Story by: Cristian Mungiu and Ioana Uricaru
Producer: Alexandru Teodorescu
Co-Producer: Josef Aichholzer
Cinematographer: Marius Panduru
Editor: Eugen Kelemen
Cast: Ana Ularu, Mimi Branescu, Andi Vasluianu, Ioana Flora, Timotei Duma
Responses courtesy of “Outbound” director Bogdan George Apetri.
From the courtroom to a set...
I honestly can't remember when exactly I started thinking that I could become a filmmaker, I'm quite satisfied with the easy answer that it's what I've always wanted to do. I first went to Law School (and practiced Law for a year) only because I realized at 18 or 19 that I'm too young to go to Film School - I needed experience, I needed to have something to say. It was later on, when I was 25, that I moved to New York to finally become a filmmaker. Luckily for me, the long-term plan I had in mind for myself turned out to work exactly as intended. Right now, I don't think anymore about what pushed me to be a film director in the first place, I'm more preoccupied with what kind of films I want to make, and what I can say through them.
A script with legal roots...
Cristian Mungiu (the director of the Cannes-winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”) wrote the original script of "Periferic" about 10 years ago. He passed it over to Saga Film (the production company in Romania) and suggested me as a director, after watching some of my Columbia University short films. I temporarily moved back to Romania from New York and practically completely re-wrote the screenplay, together with Tudor Voican.
The inspiration behind the new screenplay comes partly from a particular short scene drawn from Mungiu’s old screenplay and partly from a real-life event. As a lawyer, I knew of a man who was released from prison conditionally, for 24 hours, and had no intentions whatsoever to return back to jail. We switched the main character to a woman instead of a man, because I thought it would make the story that much more interesting and dramatic. Apart from this, 99% of the film is fiction, though.
"No tricks, no fancy directorial devices - just a bold, hard-edged, "big brush" approach"...
I simply wanted to stay as honest as possible to the story, and that meant a very direct, simple, raw shooting style for this particular one. No tricks, no fancy directorial devices - just a bold, hard-edged, "big brush" approach supporting the journey of the main character.
During pre-production, I knew perfectly well that getting the right actors for the parts and the right locations for the story meant that half of the movie was practically already in the can before we even started shooting. The filming itself was a matter of staying on course in regards to the chosen style, supporting the performances and following my instinct.
On the multiple challenges of time constraints...
Time is always the biggest challenge on any project - having enough time to bring the script to its best possible shape before the first day of the shoot, having enough time to rehearse in the morning, to do all the set-ups, to do another take and so on. Time is more valuable than money, especially on smaller films like this one.
Ana Ullaru's acting power...
The entire film stands on the shoulders of Ana Ularu, the actress playing Matilda. Her character is the engine propelling the story forward, and she is practically in every scene of the movie. I always knew that for the film to have a chance to work, I would need to find an actress who perfectly fits the part, who would be able to carry the movie almost single-handedly.
Well, the interesting fact is that after many months of casting and seeing many actresses in Bucharest – most of them excellent actresses – I found Ana Ularu during the last day of casting sessions. Not only that, but she was the very last actress scheduled for that very last day! When she walked into the room, I almost instantly knew that she has exactly what it takes for this particular role. So, I guess, this is another lesson that chance and luck, too, play a huge role in the making of any film. Looking back, I simply can't imagine the film with a different actress playing Matilda.
Going back to the U.S....
Even though I made this last film in Romania, I've lived, studied and worked as a filmmaker in New York for close to 10 years now. I am feeling very comfortable here and I am planning to continue my career in the States. I am currently working on two book adaptations, both stories set in the US.