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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Romania

Ioachim Stroe explores the effects of the pandemic in his debut feature, Camping

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- The psychological drama centring on a campsite manager was entirely shot in Bulgaria

Ioachim Stroe explores the effects of the pandemic in his debut feature, Camping
Ela Ionescu in Camping

After receiving six Gopo Award nominations as an editor and directing several shorts, Romania’s Ioachim Stroe has recently wrapped the shoot for his debut feature, the micro-budget psychological drama Camping (working title). This independent production is being staged by Wearebasca, with Stroe, Robert Fiţa and Claudiu Mitcu serving as producers.

The screenplay, written by Stroe together with Raluca Sas, focuses on Maria (Ela Ionescu), the manager of a seaside campsite. The events take place in the spring of 2020, when the campsite is supposed to be empty, but various unsettling occurrences make Maria feel like she is not actually alone there. The arrival of two tourists (Ovidiu Mihăiţă and Diana Spiridon), who later seem to be the actual managers of the campsite, will nudge Maria towards the realisation that reality may be quite different from what she would have expected.

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Camping was produced entirely with private funds. Producer Claudiu Mitcu tells Cineuropa that the total budget amounts to circa €80,000 (including various unpaid services), although his team has spent only €27,000 in cash. Production took place between 4 and 21 May in the campsite near the Bulgarian village of Krapets, on the shore of the Black Sea. Andrei Butică was the DoP.

Mitcu says that although Wearebasca has a wealth of experience in producing independent shorts and documentaries, Camping is the company’s first independent fiction feature. “We pondered for a long time whether we should finance the film independently or wait for funding from the Romanian National Film Center. Considering the most recent financing sessions of the centre, our project couldn’t have received any funding before 2022 or 2023, which means that we would have had to wait until 2024 or even 2025 to deliver the film. We wanted to do it now, so we invested some money, and now the movie will be delivered two years earlier than that.”

Stroe tells Cineuropa that his film is deeply rooted in the psychological turmoil caused by the pandemic: “I was impressed by how the pandemic changed human interactions, from the fact that we stopped shaking hands and hugging to this constant fear of everyone around us. It seemed that anyone could involuntarily kill you, and any friend or relative was a potential enemy, all while an invisible threat could have struck at any time. I think that this fear and the constant tension affected us even more than we realise now. One can see that even in how we look at each other on the street.”

Beyond this global fear, Stroe says his film strikes closer to home, given Romanians’ widespread scepticism when it comes to acknowledging various mental issues and psychotherapy. “I think it’s good for people to know that they will need help in this process of going back to normality, because most probably we won’t go back to exactly what we perceived as normality before [the pandemic],” the director explains.

Camping is expected to be delivered in December. A domestic release may take place next spring or summer.

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