"I forced the limits of the cinematic language beyond the borders"
by Stefan Dobroiu
18/10/2011 - Well-known Romanian documentary director Anca Damian made her feature debut in 2009, with Crossing Dates. Soon afterwards the director started working at the country's first animated feature in more than two decades, Crulic – The Path to Beyond [trailer, film focus], which tells the story of Claudiu Crulic, a young Romanian who died by hunger strike after being wrongfully imprisoned by the Polish authorities.
Cineuropa: What attracted you to make this project?
Anca Damian: First of all, the way Claudiu (Crulic, Ed.) died. When you decide to begin a hunger strike, the body fades away slowly, so slowly that death needs weeks to arrive. It's a contemplation of death. What I felt was the absolute solitude of this man, abandoned by everyone around him. This is how I started the project. The film's idea came from the emotion I felt imagining Claudiu Crulic's death.
Why did you choose to make an animated documentary?
There is a space that you could not cover with any kind of material. Crulic's story existed only in what others said about him, in the little pieces of information they gave away, which sometimes did not fit in with the others, but when put together helped me to intuitively weave this cloth to cover the void, using animation. But animation was only a binding matter; we always used real objects, from Crulic's pictures to thousands of pictures taken by myself and my student Ilija Zogovski during the investigation of the real spaces of the story. And then, when the victim tells his own story from the after-world, nothing could be more convincing and credible than animation.
The documentary needed a thorough investigation before production – were the Polish authorities open to giving you details about the case?
My discussions with the representatives of the Polish institutions were like trying to talk with a deaf person. My position was actually of a journalist-artist, to say so. I had many difficult moments, many obstacles. As a Romanian director and producer I wasn't able to check the legal details of the case. I received Crulic's file only with the help of the Polish co-producer (Arkadiusz Wojnarowski, Ed.).
What was the biggest challenge Crulic raised during production?
The biggest challenge was the uniqueness of this film. I forced the limits of the cinematic language beyond the borders with several visual arts and music. The language inventions are perfectly integrated into the story, which is powerful by itself - after all we are talking about death, aren't we?
The documentary uses several animation techniques, how were they chosen?
Since the very beginning we decided to use the collage and animated photography, our intention was initially to create some sort of video art. Animators Dan Panaitescu and Raluca Popa took very creative steps further away and all became a new experience for us. The animation team was formed especially for this film. This is Dragos Stefan's merit; I only brought Roxana Bentu, who helped me with some sketches necessary in order to receive financing for the film. Dragos brought Dan Panaitescu. In terms of approach, we used the concept of contour dematerialization: as Crulic's end comes nearer and nearer, the outlines are less and less obvious. The animators used this guideline during the production.
At the end you use inserts from mass media, why did you prefer real footage instead of animation?
It is the epilogue: we come back to reality. The film ends with the inserts and the legal disclaimer. We come back to the reality of the news footage, which is supposed to wake the audience up, to force them to see the world as it really is.