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March 26, 2010 2:03 AM
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New Directors/New Films '10 | Director Radu Jude on his No Fuss Approach Directing "Happiest Girl"

A scene from Radu Jude's "The Happiest Girl in the World." Photo courtesy of New Directors/New Films.

The Romanians are back with another bone-dry, pitch-black comedy—this time bearing a particularly cynical view on happiness, the cruelty of families, and the making of inept television commercials. In his feature-film debut, Radu Jude is already a master of uneasy hilarity. When a plucky provincial duckling of a young lady wins a contest, she must travel with her parents to the buzzing metropolis of Bucharest to claim her prize.

But there’s a catch—in fact, there are several, the most troublesome aimed straight from home… Jude’s film is a bittersweet experience that’s as nasty as it is enjoyable, and as true to life as fiction can get over one hot summer afternoon. And as “the happiest girl,” Andrea Bosneag is a breakthrough discovery. [Synopsis provided by New Directors/New Films]

Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening at the 2010 New Directors/New Films Festival.

"The Happiest Girl in the World" Director: Radu Jude Cast: Andreea Bosneag, Vasile Muraru, Violeta Haret Popa Screenwriter: Augustina Stanciu Producer: Ada Solomon Director of photography: Marius Panduru Editor: Catalin Cristutiu 100 minutes

Director Radu Jude on how rock music led him to filmmaking...

Back in 1993, when I was 16, I was interested in rock music. A friend of mine from the high-school took me to the Romanian cinemateque to see "Jesus Christ Superstar." I liked it and I started to go more often and see old films. Little by little I fell in love with cinema. What's funny is that they screened the films in black&white copies, so I had the feeling that good filmmaking is always black&white. It was a huge shock to see that "Taxi Driver" and "Apocalypse Now," for instance, are made in color. I actually still remember them black&white. Then I did some film studies, worked a few years as assistant director, then I got the chance to start directing short films and commercials. Then this feature film.

Jude on why he made "The Happiest Girl in the World"...

It was my feeling that a simple event like the one depicted in the film could actually tell a lot about our society and about the human nature. Everything was done according to this idea, to show less in order to show more. Well, I am not sure it works for everybody, or I may be completely wrong, but this is the basic idea.

Director Radu Jude. Photo courtesy of New Directors/New Films.
Jude on how he shot the film...

My approach...I am not that smart, to have an "approach". I just directed the film. I wanted to shoot in the middle of Bucharest, in the University Square, where happened the most important political events in the last 20 years: the 1989 Revolution started there, the fights against Ion Iliescu regime happened there. Also, I wanted to make a film in a cine-verite tradition, filming in the street, so that everything that happens in the background is a documentary about my city. Then, my concern was to have a lot of small details that would make the film eventually more "alive".

And on the challenges he faced in production...

Everything. Writing was difficult. Finding the money was difficult (for my producer). Then it was actually an easy film to make. I just had to conquer my fear. I loved the project, I wanted to do it but sometimes I was telling myself: "This is it. The film is going to be so stupid, that it's going to be my first and my last film". So another challenge was to conquer this fear of failure. I did it by accepting the failure the film eventually is.

Jude on what New Directors/New Films audience can expect...

I hope they will find something moving or funny or truthful. But I don't know, I cannot put myself in the position of a viewer, because I made the film. I think I would like this film, though, if it would have been done by someone else. Or maybe I would hate it, who knows...

And on inspirations...

Many. Well, I think everything that happens in your life is an inspiration. So first of all, it was the life itself, then the people who were closest to this project (I want to name them: Augustina Stanciu, Andrei Butica, Ada Solomon, Marius Panduru, my kid, my brother, everyone who gave me an idea or an opinion). But focusing on the cinematic influences, that would be: Abbas Kiarostami, for the storytelling, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, for the camera moves, neorealist films - for the story, Dardenne Brothers - for working with non-professionals, the films of Lucian Pintilie and Alexandru Tatos - for the story and the acting, the works of the directors I was assisting in the past (Cristi Puiu, Radu Muntean) for the overall mood...And many many others.

Jude on his future...

Well, I want to make a divorce tragicomedy, a kind of Romanian "Kramer vs. Kramer", but without the melodrama and the bullshit and with the focus on depicting how egoism and desperation go hand in hand with love and stupidity. Plus, everything being covered by ridiculousness...But well, I don't have the money for this film yet (maybe I will never make it, who knows...) so I am directing advertising films. In the last two months I did one commercial for a butter company, one for yellow cheese, one for a car company, one for some wines, one for condiments, one for a local bank and one for some hemorrhoids medicine...

TAGS: Interviews
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1 Comment

  • tully | March 26, 2010 3:54 AMReply

    It is quite refreshing to see such a boundlessly talented filmmaker be so disarmingly self-deprecating. From his shorts, I knew The Happiest Girl in the World would be good, but it's even better than that. Try to see it if you can!