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#behindthescreen: The Last Kalderash (Romanian Film Days Debut Winner ar TIFF 2017)

We continue the #behindthescreen Q&A series having invited the creators of „The Last Kalderash”, photographer Cosmin Bumbuț and journalist Elena Stancu. Their documentary won Romanian Film Days Award for debut at TIFF 2017.

It’s June 18th, Sunday night. At 7 PM I have a phone interview with Cosmin Bumbuț and Elena Stancu. I have no idea in what corner of the country are they, but I am happy they made a bit of time to talk. The more I think about this, the more anxious I get. I plan to ask them about „The Last Kalderash”, about the challenges of making a documentary when they didn’t plan for one, about how they made the people to act natural in front of the camera and the future plans.

It’s a long and sincere interview. I tried to find the answers to questions I hope all the new filmmakers asked themselves when saw this documentary.

I found out about the worries they had being behind the camera and how they learned from Google how to edit, learned about how hard is to cut some of the scenes out, because they’re not needed and about the fact that you don’t need a huge budget to create a winner film.

  1. “The Last Kalderash” it’s a debut documentary created by a photographer and a journalist. It won the Romanian Film Days Debut Prize at TIFF 2017 and Best Cinematography at Docuart Festival in 2016. What were your roles and how your jobs helped you to create this documetnary?

Elena: I took care of the research and interviews and Cosmin shot and edited the film. He didn’t know how to do it and he learned the skills to audio and video edit from Google. Basically this film is made from scratch by two people. We didn’t know we would do this, we didn’t expect to make a movie.

  1. Your documentary had only 1200 Euro budget, received as a scholarship from “Decât o Revistă”. You made an extraordinary project that competed with other films that have more budget. What was the biggest challenge? Is there something you didn’t have due to the low budget?

Cosmin: We didn’t feel it was financially challenging to live with the tinkers community. We could have been anywhere else and managed with the same amount of money. It wasn’t a challenge to edit by myself the movie. I can say we didn’t have any money issues and we didn’t feel we miss anything. On the contrary, we wouldn’t have needed more money. „Decât o Revistă” gave us a mic as well, that we didn’t even use.

Elena: We live from subscriptions, money received from our readers. There’s no fix amount each month, but we can manage. This amount was part of our budget as well.

  1. How did you meet Geo, Marina, Ionut and the rest of their family?

Cosmin: One of our subscribers called us there. Corcova wine cellar’s manager sent us an email to invite to meet. When we arrived there he said there’s a tinkers community in that area, the ones that worked on the lampshade he had in his home. He asked if we want to see a hammer and a tinkers community. We went there to take some photos and we became friends.

Elena: We first published Căldărarii din Corcova article on teleleu.eu. Then we applied for DoR scholarship with a short film project. So, this was actually the beginning of the film.

  1. How long have you stayed in Corcova and how was the shooting?

Cosmin: During one year and a half we stayed six months. We went, we stayed, we got back, we shot. After the first month we realised that the 10 minutes were long gone and that we need to develop more the subject. And we’ve decided to return. We shot, we looked at the scenes and decided we need something from their home. We only had working scenes. The end with Geo leaving was shot before last year’s Easter. We went to Corcova for a short holiday and Geo told us “The day after tomorrow I’m leaving for France”. We managed to shoot the ending we wanted. Happy coincidence.

Elena: We became friends with Geo, Marina and the rest of the people there and the things were natural. We weren’t intruders anymore, we were part of their life and they got used with us being always there.

  1. Any special moment to share?

Cosmin: I’d like to tell you about some scenes that are not in the film. It was Saint Mary’s holiday, September 8, and all the men went to other men houses to carol. Women stayed home. I left with Geo and his brothers and cousins to eat and drink, and then get back to Geo’s house to continue the party. It was a very intimate moment. I felt accepted by their community. I was invited to carol, eat and drink with them.

  1. You had 29 hours of audio footage, besides the scenes. How did you manage to make the people to feel natural in front of the camera?

Elena: I believe it’s because we’ve stayed for so long together. We became relaxed during the interviews. It wasn’t the classical approach: I ask the questions, you answer, we have 30 minutes and we leave when we finish the job. We had the recorder on the table, I asked the questions and they answered.  We had many hours of recorded audio and some interviews were done three times (like the wedding night one). They’ve told us three times the story about the wedding in three different moments and we realised the final one was the best one. We didn’t even plan for it. We went to have a beer because we were preparing to leave the next day, and Geo started a very sincere story about their wedding.

  1. Are there scenes you wanted to keep but you had to cut out? Why did you do it?

Cosmin: We’ve decided this because we haven’t had any experiences with creating a documentary and we didn’t know if the story gets to be understood following our character’s lives. We didn’t want to be explicit with shots saying: „This is Geo’s brother”, or „This is Geo’s kid”. We didn’t want to explain each character, so we had to take some out.

Elena: We kept the specialist opinion, even if it seems an outsider. We’ve started with the idea to have a reportage and then we’ve started to discuss with everyone involved:  Geo’s ex-teacher, Corcova’s school director, the mayor, with the social assistant, with the Roma intercessor (who was in fact Romanian). Cosmin started to edit and we realised this specialist opinion breaks the poetry. Our film was too technical and explained too much.

  1. If you could decide now, would you make a longer documentary?

Cosmin: I wish I had a slower rhythm in editing, especially in the beginning. I had this idea “not to bore the viewer, not to bore the viewer”. And I didn’t want to share extra info to make the story harder to understand. But maybe this extra information would have brought some other nuances to the story. I didn’t start to edit it again and I don’t wish to do it either.

  1. What was the scene that was the most difficult to cut out?

Cosmin: We shot a scene with Geo shaving in his cousin’s bath and mirror. We had a one minute shot. It was beautiful, but I thought would tangle the story. We had some shots with a skinny guy, Geo’s cousin that is the same age as his brother that randomly appears from time to time in the film. We shot a scene where Geo’s cousin helped them with the hammer. They were extremely beautiful. We had to cut them out and this was difficult. These are the first two examples that I have on the back of my mind, but I’m sure we had more.

  1. You had the entire team present at TIFF. How was this experience for Geo, Marina and Ionuț? And how was it for the entire team as a whole?

Elena: TIFF’s moment with Geo and Marina is the freshest memory I have with them. We were really excited mostly because we only knew Geo and Marina in their own world, but we didn’t know them amongst our friends, in our world. We had a chance to see them from a new perspective when they were at TIFF, when they went for the first time at the cinema and when Geo was shocked by Cluj’s prices, unaffordable for someone in their community, with their income.  This touched us.

  1. What are the plans with „The Last Kalderash”?

Cosmin: We are still waiting some answers from one or two festivals to see if it got accepted. After we finish the festival route we’re going to post it on our website teleleu.eu to be watched for free. The more people see it, the better will be for the film and the story within.

 

Article by Romina Banu
English translation by Andreea Andrei

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