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#behindthescreen: Interview with Ioana Uricaru about Lemonade

An interview with Ioana Uricaru about her debut feature film, Lemonade. Unveiling everything about the film's challenges, funny happenings on the set and, of course, the American dream.

In a few words for those who have not yet seen the movie, what is Lemonade about?

Mara, a Romanian and a single mother of an eight years old boy, Dragoș, marries an American (Daniel) whom she has known for a short time and hopes to get a Green Card as soon as possible – her work and permanent residence permit in the USA. But unfortunately, her seemingly simple plan encounters obstacles that challenge her resources.

The film addresses the issue of emigration in the United States of America and the process of obtaining a visa by marriage with an American citizen, as well as the many problems Mara, the main character, has to face following this decision. Why did you choose this topic for your first film and what was your inspiration?

I wanted to make a movie about a Romanian woman relocated in the US, because it is an experience I know very well. Many of the events in the story have happened to me, many have happened to people who told me about them, and one or two were inspired by the press. The emotional texture of the emigration experience is very familiar to me, and I wanted to make a film which, beyond the events and twists of the story, reveals the fragility and insecurity that mark this experience.

How did you choose Lemonade as the title for this movie?

The title is inspired by a very common American expression: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. It seems to me this saying includes two complementary features of the American lifestyle: on one hand, a positive attitude, an optimism close to idealism and, on the other hand, a certain cynicism, almost a cruelty – an expectation that, no matter how bad are the cards you’ve been given, you will win by a miracle.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered while shooting?

Any shooting is a tough undertaking, a test of physical endurance and emotional discipline. The production has had many elements considered to increase the difficulty level: shooting on location, night shootings, a child in the main role. I have to say that Milan Hurduc, who played Dragoș, was an absolute professional and we’ve never had any delays caused by his work – but according to the law, children are not allowed to stay on set more than a certain number of hours on a daily basis which inevitably leads to schedule restrictions. One interesting thing was the ethnic diversity of the crew – we had citizens from about six or seven countries – which required a period of adaptation to the culture and the customs of our colleagues, and resulted in a multilingual set where I constantly had to navigate between different languages in order to communicate.

The action happens in an unnamed American city, but shootings took place in Montreal. How and why did you get to this decision?

Truth be told, we would have wanted to shoot in the US, but we found out pretty soon that it would be impossible to obtain work visas or work permits, albeit temporary, for actors and members of the crew coming from Europe. So we’ve quickly reorientated to Canada, a country that can successfully be a stand-in for the US and has a co-production agreement with Romania (meanwhile it has become a member of Eurimages), which has simplified bureaucratic procedures. Canada was a very good partner, supported us, promoted the film, and we are very pleased with this decision.

Was there a scene so complex or difficult that it would take dozens of takes to reach the desired result?

Almost all scenes had at least 20 takes.

Lemonade is your debut feature which had its world premiere at Berlinale and impressed the audience, being among the most anticipated productions in the festival. What feedback did you get from the audience in our country?

I was present at the film premiere events in several cities in Romania, and the public’s reactions exceeded my expectations. In many cases, we had a packed house, very good conversations, and well-thought-out questions coming from an interested audience. People kept staying even after the q&a session was over.

Although it is a film that illustrates a trauma and a situation as real as possible, we often like to bring out and enjoy the more pleasant side of things as well. Can you share with us a funny story that happened on the set? 🙂

I do not know how funny it is, but two of the incidents happening in the film also happened to some of our crew members and during the shootings – which has somehow confirmed their authenticity. And I found it interesting that we had no Americans in the crew or the cast J (only one of the guys in the grip and electric department had dual citizenship).

Was it something you really wanted as a director for this film, but could not you get?

It would’ve been helpful if we could have filmed in the United States, it would’ve saved us much energy and some money. But, on the other hand, there we would not have obtained the financial and the government support that Canada has granted us, so maybe it was better this way.

As a short conclusion, what do you think people should know about the “American Dream”?

According to the American dream, you can get whatever you want in life. To keep in mind: yes, that’s true, but only if you are ready to do whatever you are asked to.

What future plans do you have? Are you preparing a new feature?

My plan is not to let it pass another eight years until I make the next film 🙂

Photo by Annette Hornischer, courtesy of the American Academy in Berlin

An interview by Romina Banu

English translation by Andreea Toader

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