Ivana Mladenovic on her debut

As part of the trainee programme for young film critics we have asked the participants to have a short interview with one of the emerging filmmakers of their region. All filmmakers are selected for IFFR 2018. 

Poverty is not a source of magic

By Young Film Critic Beáta-Hajnalka Berecki

Soldiers. Story from Ferentari will be screened at the IFFR almost at the same time as it will have its premiere in Romania.

Set in a neighbourhood where you wouldn’t normally enter, with people you probably wouldn’t approach, with a romance you wouldn’t typically see. 

In your fiction feature debut, Soldiers. Story from Ferentari the plot takes place in a marginalised Roma community in Romania, in a world known for manele music and macho culture, but not for gay romances. What has drawn you to this story?

The film is based on the novel with the same title, a cult book in Romania written by Adrian Schiop. It is an autofiction, based on the author’s experience and related emotions, a story told in a brutally honest manner. I have read the book and felt strongly connected to it, as it has some similarities with my previous work, but also because of the love story between Adi and Alberto. The story is placed in Ferentari one of the poorest neighborhood in Bucharest), but the foreground is occupied by the relationship between the two characters. For me Soldiers is, first and foremost, a story about love and then, as its failure becomes imminent, a fable about guilt. The conflict of the film shows what happens when the world of the intellectual bourgeoisie, living in the center and the poor world of the outcasts in Ferentari collide.

The movie is a free adaptation of Adrian Schiop’s novel, but you’ve worked with him on the script and he is one of the movie’s leading actors also. How has this many-sided collaboration developed?

Once I’ve read the book, I’ve realised that I would like to make a movie about it. The writing process with Adi wasn’t hard, but it took a long time, as this was the first script for both of us; we’ve worked on it for almost two years. And I knew that the lines will change as soon as I find the characters. I’ve decided to work with lots of non-professional actors. The hardest part was to find the right person to play Alberto: somebody with the looks of an ex-con Roma who could be good at long monologues. When I met Pavel Vasile-Digudai, it seemed almost impossible that a married man coming from a traditional gypsy community would accept this role. Then for about a year and a half I’ve been searching the person for the role of Adi; finally I’ve decided to take the real Adi for the role. I knew I made the right choice when Adi and Pavel met. It became impossible to imagine someone else in the role, because they had so many things in common. They became friends and made this love story possible on screen.

  • Ivana Mladenovic

The neighbourhood portrayed in the movie is known as the poorest and most problematic one in the capital of Romania. Have you had any previous experience in a similar setting?

Before this film, I’ve made a documentary about three young men, who were released from prison. While working on that film I’ve seen that poverty attracts crime; that it’s a vicious circle that can be very hard to escape. When filming Soldiers I had the temptation to focus more on the framework, the poverty around me; in Ferentari your eyes are easily stolen by the landscape, you want to put the camera on what you see around. However I didn’t want to detract the message of the film to other areas.  In fact, the relationship between Adi and Alberto is a meeting of two desperate people: one made so by loneliness, the other by the precariousness of a life without freedom. The feelings building up between them come from a very basic range of emotions: fear of abandonment, distrust, the need for power and emotional security. Poverty is not something to be contemplated, it isn’t a source of magic; being poor or economically dependent generates a very low level of self-esteem.

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Young Film Critics programme 2018

Photo in header: Soldiers. Story from Ferentari