The author and director Cristian Mungiu was born in Romania in 1968 and studied English and American literature and film direction at the Academy for Film and Theater in Bucharest. His short films have received numerous awards. In 2000, Mungiu directed "Occident", his first feature film, a bitter and absurd comedy about life in Romania for which he was also responsible for the script and co-production. "Occident" was selected for Cannes 2002 (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) and has received many awards. "That in eastern Europe the West is made a fetish of is already stated by the Romanian Cristian Mungiu in the title of his comedy. Stay here or go away, the figures continually come across this alleged fateful question about a better life, whereby Mungiu also clearly shows that these dreams of the west often have nothing to do with the reality there" (Freitag). In October 2003 "Occident" was shown in the ZDF - Kleines Fernsehspiel series "New Europeans." In the meantime the film was presented at many other international festivals, including Cannes, Rotterdam, and New York.
Questions to the director:
What was your feeling when you heard about the "relations" cinema project?
I think "relations" was very bold. I'm always curious of smaller customs and cultures. This project represents what I like about cinema: putting together lots of individualities, producing no mainstream and not having to tell stories which anybody can tell somewhere else.
In your film the turkey "stars" in some impressing scenes. What was it like working with an animal?
It was one of the major challenges of the film because we don't have a good animal trainer in Bucharest. So first of all I started looking around and finally discovered somebody in Romania. I insisted from the very beginning on having a turkey which will survive happily up to the end of his life after becoming an actor. First I wanted to have three similar turkeys just in case, but it wasn't possible. They wouldn't stand each other. So I had to take the risk and worked with this single animal. But it proved to be a very loyal and good practising actor and little by little he learnt to do lots of tricks. But the most important thing was that the trainers managed to transfer the sympathy the turkey had for them to the actors. So I just sent the actors there ten days before the shooting and the final result was: for a bird he really acted very well.
But was it part of your written story that the turkey in fact doesn't do a single trick the girl taught him?
It was intended like this, yes. The relationship between this girl and the turkey should not be defined by any result you can see. It is her that loves the bird, because it's her friend. But you can never see that he does anything special. It's just in her mind. The bird just shouldn't be considered something to be eaten - we wouldn't eat our friends, would we?
Interview: Oliver Baumgarten, Chief editor of the film magazine "SCHNITT".