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TIFF 2014 - Interview with Nae Caranfil: “I always try to manipulate with my movies: this is the main reason artists create… to lie beautifully”
© Tara Karajica
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After a seven-year absence, Nae Caranfil comes back with an English-speaking tragicomedy about a unique incident occured in Bucharest of 1959. Closer to the Moon΄s screening at the Romanian Days section of Transilvania IFF 2014 gave altcine the chance to ask him a few questions.

Closer to the Moon is the most expensive Romanian film to date and it has an international cast and production. How did the Romanian audience receive it?

Nae Caranfil: In very different ways. Most of the feedback I have is extremely positive but as always, there are three kinds of objections that come in isolated ways from very few people. The nationalistic type of objection: “Why in English? Don΄t we have Romanian actors who could have done better these performances”; the purist type of objection: “Things didn΄t happen that way, communism was not like that.” Reality was different and I have problems explaining to them that this is my reality, not theirs. And, the stylistic type of objection: “Why is this so Hollywood, so American?” I ask what is the American style because I know American films are so different one from another. There are bad ones and brilliant ones and you cannot really put them together in one plate whereas European art films, festival calibrated films, are much more similar to one another than those ones. 

What prompted you to choose this particular subject for your film?

N.C.: It was an accident actually. I was thinking about a completely different movie when Alexandru Solomon approached me and asked me to give him some feedback on a documentary film that he was preparing. And, this was a documentary film based on the episode of the bank robbery from 1959. This is how I had the first contact with this story. I didn΄t know this story at the time. I was fascinated by it and I thought it was tragic and burlesque at the same time and this combination suited me perfectly. So, I thought fiction would be the best way to solve the problem because this is a story that is not solved even today, nobody knows exactly what, why and if something happened there. 

How long did you research the 1959 events? How was the research process?

N.C.: It was quite long in my terms because I usually don΄t do very much research. I rely on my imagination but this time, I tried to get every bit of information I could. The best thing I did, in a way, was to get hold of some Israeli Romanian language magazines published in Tel Aviv where they made a whole file over three or four editions of the events with people that were remembering things in very different ways. So, I got very different angles on this story and then, aside from the documentary film made by Alexandru Solomon, I saw another documentary film of which nobody knew in Romania, made by the woman΄s granddaughter. She΄s living in New York and she came to Bucharest in 1999 and made a documentary about her grandmother. 

At the Q&A yesterday you talked about manipulation. How much did you manipulate us? How much of it is fiction and how much is actually true?

N.C.: I cannot really tell. I mean the joke I made yesterday was "75% was true and the rest of the 75% is fiction". I cannot say. There΄s a lot of fiction and a lot of reality as well. I tried to make my own story, mixing the two. I always try to manipulate with my movies. I think this is the main reason artists create. Not to explain the world – this is the philosophers΄ job; not to improve the world – this is the politicians΄ job but to lie beautifully and this is why I use every bit of film ingredients I can. I use music for example. Most of my colleagues don΄t. They think music is manipulative. So what? It should be. And it fits Film in general. This is why I use editing. I think the camera should be in different places. That΄s why we make movies and we don’t stick to reality. In reality, we have one camera, one angle with just our own angle and it΄s a p.o.v. and that΄s all. Movies allow us to do more. So why not use that? 

You never subscribe to any version of the events but you do romanticize yours. Is this reason why you called your film “Closer to the Moon”, in order to perhaps give your own more beautiful version?

N.C.: How this title came out was the best of the worst. Originally, when this was supposed to be a French co-production, it was called Alice au Pays des Camarades. But, in English this sounds dreadful (Alice in Comradsland) and me and the American producers and some other people did some brainstorming trying to find a suitable title in English and Closer to the Moon was the closest to something that could sound right that we could find. 

Now that the Romanian New Wave is celebrating its 10th anniversary and it΄s been very successful in this decade of its existence, where do you see it going? 

N. C.: I΄m very curious to see what΄s next in store for them. Some people call me a kind of precursor of this movement and I think I am not. I΄m very, very different from what they are doing. Not that I don΄t admire and appreciate their work and not that I don΄t envy their festival triumphs all over the world but, my cinema is very different from theirs. Story-oriented films formed me and now, what we are witnessing is a kind of opposite trend but I stick to my story-oriented cinema. 

And, what notion do you have of Balkan Cinema?

N.C.: I don΄t have a definite opinion about that. I mean, I see movies and sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am sad but I΄m not very keen on giving Cinema geographic or stylistic labels. I think movies are individual adventures and they should remain so. Whenever you try to make trends or waves or generations together, I think you΄re making a mistake. 

And what are your next projects? Are you going to make another movie about a movie?

N.C.: No, the fact that two successive movies of mine were movies about cinema and about the making of a movie is an accident. I didn΄t plan it so. It just happened. Normally, I wouldn΄t have done that but Destiny put those together in a very curious way. My next film will be a contemporary Romanian comedy and it will be in Romanian with Romanian actors.

  Closer to the Moon
  Nae Caranfil
  Alexandru Solomon
  Transilvania International Film Festival
  TIFF 2014 - Closer to the Moon: A wonderful and bold revision of Romanian History
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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