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“There are many shades of the Romanian grey”

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Emanuel Pârvu • Director

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- We talked to Emanuel Pârvu, who explores the challenges in rural Romania with his first feature, Meda or the Not So Bright Side of Things, one of the winners at Sarajevo

Emanuel Pârvu  • Director
Emanuel Pârvu with his Heart of Sarajevo for Best Director (© SFF / Obala Art Centar)

Cineuropa chatted with Emanuel Pârvu, winner of the Best Director Award at the Sarajevo Film Festival with his Meda or the Not So Bright Side of Things [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Emanuel Pârvu
film profile
]
, about the challenges of directing an independent debut feature in a country that seems to obstinately discourage first-time directors and producers.

Cineuropa: Romanian cinema is almost exclusively urban. What made you so determined to go out to the middle of nowhere?
Emanuel Pârvu:
 I consider that there are many shades of the Romanian grey. The story of Meda or the Not So Bright Side of Things would have made sense only in a place where we suppose that people live in harmony with nature, but not necessarily with themselves. It is a place where nature offers quietness, beauty and self-sustenance, but even there, society brings corruption, ugliness, mud and grey. From my point of view, discovering a man who is different from the rest of us has meaning only when he lives in the midst of nature, and not in the middle of a city. He is a man similar to the quintessence of the Romanian psyche: frank, quiet, holding on to his principles and only slowly adapting to new events.

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This was not supposed to be your first film. Despite receiving some good feedback from the selection committee, you infamously won the smallest amount ever given away by the Romanian National Film Center, approximately €5,000 for a feature. How was this possible, and can you explain the context?
That positive feedback is still a source of joy for me, as it was then. It means that they liked the screenplay. As for the amount, only those from the Center can explain how they decided it. I gave up on the project after a great deal of consideration, after having been so emotionally involved with the story, but I came to believe it was for the best.

Your debut feature was produced independently, without any national support. How difficult was that? Would you repeat this endeavour?
It was incredibly difficult, given that both the producer, Miruna Berescu, and I were tackling our first feature. The conditions were far from perfect, as we shot far away from Bucharest in the dead of winter, with all the cold, the mud, many exterior shots and no money. We managed to finish the film, and for us this sort of “baptism” was a success. I don’t know if I would tackle a feature in identical conditions, perhaps only with a story that would involve me emotionally in as powerful a way as Meda – maybe then I would find some motivation. But I must admit that a budget, no matter how small, would be incredibly helpful.

Romanian filmmakers are asking categorically for an update of the country’s outdated legislation. What would you change?
Most probably the first-feature issues. According to the current legislation, a first-time producer enters the competition without any advantage, which means it’s mathematically impossible for him or her to receive a state grant.

Are you developing a new feature? What is it about?
Yes, I am working on a psychological family drama. This time, the family is complete, which means that the mother will be part of the story. The story is personal, but I want to adapt it so that it feels universal and easily understandable to everyone who watches the film.

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