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Press Reviews


Two years ago, I was making a series of short films for an EU PHARE project for the improvement of the Roma situation in Romania. I travelled all over the country and came across many interesting people and places.

Somebody told me about a village in the northeast where children walk two and a half miles to school in the nearby town. In good weather they would go across the fields, and in heavy rain or snow they would walk along the railway tracks. I immediately thought this would be a good subject for a film.

Sometime later I had the opportunity to visit this village. I was introduced to a family with ten children; five of whom had made it all the way to University. While I was talking with the father, by the gate – an interesting character himself, with his big, green eyes and his dark face – a young man passed by with a bucket, on his way to the well. Not only did he not say hello, but he didn’t seem to be aware of anything around him at all.

The father told me that this was his oldest son Mihai, who just got back from a monastery, where he had spent nine months after having abandoned his theological studies at the University. He seemed alienated or rather – as I was to find out later – profoundly disappointed by the world around him.

When the father told me about his three older daughters, I knew there was something special about this family and that it would be worth spending some more time with them.

Since the older children had left home, the initial idea was to make a film about the younger ones and their daily trip to school. However, it turned out that they were at school all day, so I ended up spending most of my time with Mihai – who was living at home at this point – and his mother. Since both of them seemed to be more outspoken and articulate than the rest of the family, they soon occupied my attention completely, becoming the leading characters of the film.

One of the first lessons you learn as a documentary filmmaker is that what you find on the ground, when you go out filming, is usually different from what you had planned in advance. Or, as the Romanian saying goes, "the calculations you make at home change as soon as you get to the market" (“socoteala de-acasa nu se potriveste cu aia din tirg”). You have to adapt to the situation, to follow your instinct and go for what you think is more interesting, rather than stick to the initial plan and maybe end up with a boring film.

This may cause some debates with the producers, who have to be prepared to adapt and take risks; for the filmmaker this is part of the excitement of the filmmaking process.
You have to be sure you come back with a film "in the can”. And the great joy you feel every time you go to the “set” to meet your characters seems to be a guarantee for that…

Laurentiu Calciu
November 2004