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Waves and Prizes fade away... A good film must always stay fresh
© Ana Grgic
First Publication: 16 November 2015
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Ana Grgic: This year the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is celebrating your filmmaking career through a retrospective of your work. Are you pleased to show your films in the festival?

Mircea Daneliuc: This is half of my oeuvre, and it is laudable, I am happy to be here. It’s my third time in Thessaloniki. I was here for the first time with a film in 1995 (NB. The Snails Senator). 

A.G.: You are an acclaimed Romanian film director, but your films were rarely seen outside Romania, especially during communist years.

Mircea Daneliuc: It was an inappropriate time. I was considered unsuitable by the communist regime. This is why my films rarely made it beyond the national borders. This is my life. 

A.G.: You made films during the communist period under Ceausescu and after the revolution, what is your experience of working in cinema under both systems?

Mircea Daneliuc: There are important differences. On the one hand, during the communist period, the state financed films and expected propaganda, therefore one needed to cheat in order to get through the censorship, and to be able to show the film in its integrality. After the revolution, we had a few years of total wealth, we were able to make films with the money from the Ministry of Culture. Afterwards, the state reduced funding and it was more difficult for young film directors. There were two types of people, one type under the Ceausescu regime and one after, who understood artistic creation in another way. Even though, Ceausescu’s activists became the democrats immediately after the revolution. There is another type of censorship which is present in any democracy, in United States, in the West, everywhere. It is natural…the one who gives money, wants things in return. 

A.G.: How do these two types of censorship influence filmmaking?

Mircea Daneliuc: Use of allegory in a film can sometimes hide the lack of talent. Now, if a film director makes a film in an explicit way, one can see immediately if there is talent or not. 

A.G.: During the communist period, what was your relationship like with other Romanian film directors?

Mircea Daneliuc: I talked to and shared ideas and my work with several colleagues, in particular the film director Alexandru Tatos and the DOP Florin Mihailescu. That was it. The majority didn’t want to risk their career. They accepted the regime and made propaganda. But there were some who took a risk. 

A.G.: Your films have always taken a very critical stance towards the political system in power and Romanian society. Nowadays, what are the most important themes or problems that need to be tackled?

Mircea Daneliuc: I repeat, I don’t make films any more. I have withdrawn and found refuge in literature. What was important for me, when I was still making films, after the so-called “revolution”, was the fact that the politicians lied. This gave me a feeling, and still leaves with me a feeling today of immense frustration. They lied about their promises, of progress, of democracy, of vitality. They are still the old communists, just transferred to another boat.

A.G.: Your films seem to be more critical and more overtly political than those of the Romanian new wave.

Mircea Daneliuc: This is because I am more audacious than they are. I am disappointed by the politicians’ promises, my expectations, everything. 

A.G.: What do you think about this cultural movement labelled as the Romanian new wave? Are there common elements which unite these filmmakers?

Mircea Daneliuc: I don’t know, I wasn’t able to observe a Romanian cultural movement, which started a wave, a tsunami…because culture progresses through personalities. This notion of the wave was defined by a tired critic. There was also a French New Wave, out of which maybe only Truffaut counts. It’s the personalities that push the culture. The waves have the sad habit of breaking…

A.G.: But you have influenced a lot of the young film directors of the Romanian new wave.

Mircea Daneliuc: Yes, I am their daddy (laughs). If they are inspired by my work, that’s good. The tendency has been to abandon the close-up, the travelling, all kind of stylistic and figurative representation, but this is a little primitive in my opinion. For a film to be good, it needs to continue conveying the feeling of being fresh, actual. Also, it needs to be imitated. If a film is imitated, it means it has something good. 

A.G.: Do you think that the “Romanian new wave” and its success in international film festivals contributed to a growth in Romanian film industry and easier access to funding?

Mircea Daneliuc: The state funding is very small, the filmmakers are obliged to scrabble for funding elsewhere. I haven’t noticed that foreign producers have invaded Romania to offer funding for Romanian films. It’s like a child’s disease. It’s a fashion. I am very curious to know who among the Romanian new wave directors will remain in Romanian cinema history. I repeat, the film needs to stay fresh at any time. 

A.G.: When you were still making films, did you feel more like a Balkan, European or Romanian film director?

Mircea Daneliuc: The Balkan mentality it’s very special…there are common characteristics. I am contemporary to Emir Kusturica, Istvan Szabo, etc. I consider that we come from the same pond. 

A.G.: But do you feel closer to their cinema or that of an American or French film director?

Mircea Daneliuc: No, no, no. I am closer to the Czech Film School, the Yugoslav Black wave, Polish cinema etc. The French haven’t made any good films. 

A.G.: The retrospective of your work has been programmed in the Balkan Survey section. Do you feel this is suitable?

Mircea Daneliuc: No, because everyone who makes a film has its own reason. I have been placed in this section because of the retrospective. I am no longer part of the cinema world. Even then, I didn’t go to film festivals very often, because I detest festivals. Of course, as a young man, a student, one wants to participate in the festival, bring his work and brochures. But when one sees how the prizes have been set up, as I’ve seen at Cannes, Venice, Berlin film festivals, one has enough. I will never accept an award, I will always refuse it. The most important, in my view, is the film work itself. The film must stay. The prizes pass, fade away. 

A.G.: What was a particularly difficult moment during your career as a film director?

Mircea Daneliuc: There were several periods when I was pushed to the side by the regime. But also during democracy for a period of eight years. It’s because of this, I don’t like this new regime. Yes, it’s still a regime. A club. During these eight years, I wrote, I did many things, but not cinema. I started a film, and during the production, the money was stolen. And no one has been punished. I never got the money to finish the film.

A.G.: How did the films bypass censorship?

Mircea Daneliuc: The script had to seem innocent, and then while shooting, we added everything that was needed. There was censorship during the script stage, and again after the film was finished. You had to pass the censorship at the script stage, but at the end, one had to risk.  Normally, they wanted to cut a lot from the film, change the subject, but if you wanted to risk, you had to refuse. This is why some film directors were put aside for a period of time. There were negotiations: « Please cut. » « No, no. » In the end, the films passed. What makes me happy is that my films don’t seem like they went through censorship. But they did nonetheless.

A.G.: There have been several changes in the infrastructure of the Romanian national film centre.

Mircea Daneliuc: I am the architect of this national film centre. In 1990, I was at the head of a strike with other film directors. It was the only strike which was taken seriously by the regime, and that managed to remove cinema production from the control of the Ministry of Culture. For a period of five years, it was heaven. Since it’s disappeared. The new generation of filmmakers which came out of this period are fine with the current state of affairs. There hasn’t been a real transformation. They have a tendency to return to cinema of brothers Lumières, many of them make a very simplistic cinema, avoiding the long shot, the travelling, in order to shoot quickly and to stay within the budget. This is why the simplistic Romanian film was invented. It’s not an aesthetic choice. The films of the new generation consist of one long fixed take, throughout the whole film. This was declared as an invention, but the Lumières had discovered this one hundred years ago…

A.G.: Romanian film directors are facing a difficult situation today… many cinema theatres have closed down in the post-communist period. What affect does this have?

Mircea Daneliuc: It’s horrendous. If you have no cinema theatres, you don’t have an audience. There are only multiplexes. We are in a situation where, you make a film and it falls directly into the archive. Nowadays, the distribution doesn’t exist. After a film is made, you look for a foreign television channel in order to distribute it. Thankfully, I am old. 

  The Snails' Senator
  Emir Kusturica
  Alexandru Tatos
  Florin Mihailescu
  Ana Grgic
  Mircea Daneliuc
  Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Festival de Cannes
  Berlin International Film Festival - The Berlinale
  Centrul National al Cinematografiei - CNC Romania
  Romanian Film Centre
  The 56th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Berlin International Film Festival - Official Webpage
  Festival de Cannes - Official Webpage
  Venice International Film Festival - Official Webpage
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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