Oh, Ramona had its national premiere on February 14th, right on Valentine’s Day. In a couple of words, what is the movie about?
C.J .: About love, adolescence, first experiences and attractions, about feelings, about love and friendship, about the unforgettable taste of the first kiss.
The film is the adaptation of the autobiographical novel “Suck It, Ramona!”, by Andrei Ciobanu, who also worked on the screenplay with you and Alex Coteţ. Why did you choose to adapt this novel?
C.J.: I read it because I was surprised that so many young people raised their eyes from their phones to read a 500-page book. I remembered everything I also lived at that age. After all, what we all lived because the story is universal. In the following days, the characters, the situations, began to haunt me. Although I was focusing on another project, I realized that a new film has already begun in my head. Sometimes, the film chooses you.
What was your approach to adapting the book? What did you keep and what did you let go of regarding the action in the novel?
C.J.: First, 500 pages could not fit into two hours of film. Then, if we had shown intimate scenes on screen as described in the book, we would have made a movie unsuitable for minors. And that would have been foolish since the movie is about them and for them! Otherwise, we respected the story, always keeping an emphasis on the hero’s feelings evolution.
The question that is probably on everybody’s lips: Why did you choose the movie to be in English?
C.J.: One reason would be the possibility to cast actors from all over the world. Another one, to have the ability to sell it more easily on other foreign markets. What we wanted was creating a universal story which deserves to be watched everywhere, and this way the foreign audiences can see that Romanians are talented and skilled in film, that they have a unique type of humor and a beautiful country. In Rom-English: a win-win choice, so to speak.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered during the shootings?
C.J.: I wanted to make a professional and clean film, which led to the rental of some expensive equipment and technology. Costs have forced us to have a very tight and busy shooting schedule. We had everything we wanted, but we had to move very fast. And to hurry up in English so we can all understand each other…
The beach scene was probably the most complicated one to shoot, also the one in the tower in Braşov, the one in the Council Square, the dance in the bus station, and the one-shot in the sequence where Andrei and Anemona argue which took 27 takes.
Was there a sequence so complex or difficult that it required dozens of takes to reach the desired result?
C.J.: Not necessarily. But, sometimes, we did shoot more takes when I felt that the actors still had something more to give, although we already had a good take. Generally, it was worth it. Otherwise, we had one dreadful night when we shot the scene on the beach. It was windy and cold, the actors were dressed lightly, some technical incidents also appeared. The entire crew was irritated and tired, but on the screen, it was supposed to be a cool, laid-back and romantic scene. After all, it succeeded in being one. Viewers will never know how few degrees the sea water had.
Oh, Ramona is a movie that will make us laugh and think about the current generations. Can you tell us a funny story on the set? ?
C.J.: We were shooting the scene in which the pedestrians are dancing. After several rehearsals, we noticed that across the border, the citizens who were watching us as we were filming started to sketch some dance steps. No, they were not kids, they were people of the same age as my parents who were glad to fool around with us for a few minutes! They were really nice. I hope they will come to watch the film, with their children or separately. In fact, it’s the easiest way to feel like a 16 years old again for a couple of hours.
Was there something you really wanted as a director for this movie, but you could not get?
C.J.: I cannot complain. We had a super-team, solid and dedicated to the project. I hope the friendship between us will feel on the screen as well. Otherwise, I do wish something of this film, but I will not say what it is. Let’s just say it depends on you.
What future plans do you have?
C.J.: For the moment I’m busy with the release of the film. We have events in several cities. I grew up somewhere outside the capital and it seems unfair that only people in Bucharest have the opportunity to meet the actors and the team of the film. It’s wearing, but it’s worth it. You have no idea how much a meeting with the audience can charge you up. Their glances, their laughter, their reactions, and comments give you the energy to throw yourself into a new adventure, even a bigger and a harder one. I have some projects at home, but who knows? Maybe, tomorrow I will meet the future film totally by surprise. There’s always magic in the middle when it comes to cinema.
Oh, Ramona had its national premiere in cinemas on February 14th.
An interview by Romina Banu
English translation by Andreea Toader
Photo credits: Descopera.ro