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“The film is first and foremost a love story between two individuals”

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Ivana Mladenovic • Director

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2017: A chat with Romanian director Ivana Mladenovic, whose gay love story, Soldiers. Story from Ferentari, is ground-breaking for Romanian cinema

Ivana Mladenovic  • Director

Based on Adrian Schiop’s novel of the same title and starring Schiop as a fictionalised version of himself, Ivana Mladenovic’s Soldiers. Story from Ferentari [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ivana Mladenovic
film profile
]
is the first Romanian film which boldly and explicitly embraces LGBT topics. Here is what the director has to say about the context of her fiction feature debut, competing at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: How did Soldiers... come into being?
Ivana Mladenovic: I directed a documentary beforehand called Turn Off the Lights [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, about three youngsters recently released from prison. I spent almost three years with them and I couldn’t help but notice that poverty invites crime and violence, that they create a vicious circle from which it is very difficult to escape. My film is first and foremost a story about love between two men and, when love ends, about guilt. In both the film and the book, the character Alberto spent 14 years in prison and the film covers the social status of a former convict. Who will give you a job with that sort of past? How do you understand society after 14 years of isolation? And, of course, what can his lover Adi actually do for him in this situation?

Adrian Schiop lived the events, wrote about them in his book, co-wrote the screenplay and now he is starring in the film. How did you decide that he was the best choice for the protagonist?
At first I thought it would be difficult to find someone to play Alberto. It was only after I found Vasile Pavel Digudai that I started to look for Adi. Their relationship is at the heart of the film, so I looked for someone who would be able to be Alberto’s partner. A year and half passed, with Digudai coming to Bucharest week after week for auditions, and I still couldn’t find my Adi. Well, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find him because the “real” Adi was sat right next me. It took so long to convince him to play the part. In the end we rented a small apartment in Ferentari and we started filmed rehearsals two months before the shooting.

Do you think Alberto and Adi come from different worlds?
Adi and Alberto are both on the margins of their respective worlds. After being released from prison, Alberto is a mere help in the house of a rich relative. Adi is marginalised because of his sexual orientation and it’s their marginal status that makes their communication possible. It’s true that their financial positions are radically different, in Adi’s advantage. While working on the screenplay we tried to show that money plays an important part in human interactions, that the topic is not to be avoided in a love story. The manele, the music Adi studies, greatly fetishise money, often saying that money and love are a great combination. For as long as there is money, Adi and Alberto’s relationship works perfectly: a kind of affection that we can call love.

Would you like Soldiers to cause a debate in Romania on the status of the two minorities?
The film is first and foremost a love story between two individuals, something everyone can connect with, regardless of his or her social status. Soldiers is not an ethnographic study on a Roma neighbourhood or a sociological cross-section of the ghetto. But their story also talks about poverty, being a homosexual in the Roma community, the social status of a former convict. It’s not my place to draw conclusions or to tell people what to think about the film.

Are you developing a new feature?
I am writing a screenplay about a woman in her 40s who is unable to escape a loveless, long-term relationship. The film will be shot at the border between Romania and Serbia, hopefully by the same team behind Soldiers.

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