Of Snails and Men

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Interview with Romanian flim director Tudor Giurgiu.

A, tall, handsome, 41-year-old man greets me with a calm smile. The meeting takes place just before midnight, after a terrific and interesting Q&A session on his new movie Of Snails and Men. His name is Tudor Giurgiu, and he is a famous Romanian movie director who happened to visit during the surprisingly sunny Russian fall (so called “Indian summer” period) to present his movie at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival. I was lucky to interview him and to be charmed by his charisma.
How did you decide to be a director? Was it a childhood dream or did you come to this decision accidentally?
When I was a kid I liked to organize things and direct small stage theatre performances in school. But because this was during the communist period, I knew I had no chance. So my decision was totally mad and crazy, and everything happened because when I was in the last year of high school, the revolution in Romania happened. Suddenly, I realized I could do whatever I wanted, so I decided to become a director. It was a totally instinctual decision. It was not a long term plan. I hadn’t done films before, so what followed, just happened.
Did you face any difficulties in the beginning of your professional path?
I didn’t know anything. The only good thing in my school was the fact that I was able to see hundreds of films in the school film library. But it was during practice work on a film set that I learned about filmmaking. I worked as a director’s assistant: making coffee, holding cables…
That’s how everybody starts!
Yeah! That’s how I learned about films! And I think it is very important to work assisting, before you do serious work on your own. It gives you a chance to learn and at the same time do some volunteering during production. Now I realize that people are a bit confused. They don’t know what they want. I think it’s good to experiment with many different things and then you might choose what is good for you.
Your first movie was called Love Sick and showed a story of affection. This film brought you success. How did you feel at that moment? Do you consider it to be a success for you personally?
For me it was a big success. It was again a bit controversial because it was the very first time in Romanian cinema that the film showed a love story between 2 young student-girls, while at the same time one of the girls has a love affair with her own brother. Such a situation is was very complicated to deal with. For me, it was really great that I could put it on screen and receive such a huge response. For a director it is really great when the film is on screen and you can have evenings like this one, where people ask questions and discuss your film with you.
What is the main advantage of your profession?
I don’t think there is any greater advantage in being a director than the fact that you can travel, for example, go to festivals. Organizers invite you, cover your expenses, and you talk about what you’ve done. This is really great!
What about today’s youth in Romania. What do you think they are interested in? Do they differ from the youth of your generation?
Yeah, totally. Everybody is on Facebook now, everybody is on bikes in fancy clothes. They are much more sophisticated then we were. Nevertheless there is a lack of perspective; they are more confused than we were. Now, for example, there are big protests on the streets for social or ecological causes. It is great for me to see that this generation, now 20 or so years old, which was somehow socially dead suddenly reacted in the same way as we were reacting 10-15 years ago. I think they are really great and it is a chance for the country to change, if they are smart enough to…
Do they stay in Romania or they move to other countries?
Some of them stay, some leave, some come back. I think it is good because it really offers a chance for society to improve.
Let’s talk about your film. The name is Of Snails and Men, and its plot is about a French businessman wants to convert a factory into a snail cannery in a small Romanian town. Why snails and not frogs, for example?
I was debating with my co-writer about if this factory was sold to some French people, what would they do with it, and immediately we thought of snails because it is so stereotypically French.
So now you must know some interesting facts about snails?
Yes. Actually we learned a lot about casting snails. We tried to choose the best ones. If you want to take a close-up of a snail you need to drop some beer beside it and it will get out of its shell and move its whiskers!
Wow! I will definitely test it!
It is really so, I tested it myself!
What is your biggest personal achievement?
Personally I don’t think it matters how many films I have produced and how many festivals I have visited. Having a kid – that is really important. Maybe it sounds like a cliché, but once you have gone through this evolution you find it is not a cliché at all. This summer I was in New York for 12 days filming. I was producing a film, and my 6-year-old son was with me. He was an actor in the film and we had a great time together. I think it is a part of our evolution as human beings. There is a certain point where you begin to consider yourself to be a bit more serious. Having a kid doesn’t, in and of itself, mean that you have become more serious, but it is part of life and is its best part!
Do you want your kid to be a director or work in this sphere?
No, I hope he won’t. But I know that what he sees everyday is really connected with directing and films. I can’t picture him becoming a lawyer or an economist. But I’m sure he will find his way.
Thank you very much! Looking forward to your new movies!
About the film Of Snails and People
This cute comedy with a touch of drama is based on real events. In 1992, in the small town of Muscel, located in Romania, the state-owned automobile factory ARO goes bankrupt. Rumors circulated that during the week it would be privatized. But the workers do not know that management plans to make money on this deal and had already established contacts with two businessmen – a father and a son who are interested in buying the factory , but want to turn it into a production plant for canned snails. These plans do not include the continued employment of thousands of workers. The only one who is trying to confront the situation and save the factory is the head of the trade union Geogr. His crazy decision affects his colleagues too, as he plans to sell their sperm in a newly opened sperm bank in Bucharest.

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