Radu Dragomir • Director of Mo
“All I wanted was to tell a credible story”
- Romanian director Radu Dragomir invites us behind the closed doors of Mo, his first feature currently screening in competition at Sarajevo
After a few decades of various television projects, Romanian director Radu Dragomir makes the leap onto the big screen at the Sarajevo Film Festival with Mo [+see also:
interview: Radu Dragomir
film profile], a story about vulnerability, power and the dangerous dance between them. Here is what the director has to say about his story, which may very well revive the #MeToo debate in his native country.
Cineuropa: Mo was advertised as being inspired by real events. Can you give us any more details?
Radu Dragomir: The screenplay was developed from a real piece of news. A professor was filmed by a student in a dorm room while taking his clothes off and asking her for sexual favours in exchange for passing an exam. The message was so strong that it inspired me to write a story about this type of abuse. The characters and the story I portrayed are unrelated to what happened then, but I used one of the lines in the real video and made it come out of the mouth of the character in my film. It was the line that intrigued me the most: “Don’t you know what you came here for?”
For a while, the film’s working title was The Professor. Did you switch the focus from one character to the other?
Indeed, I had both versions in mind. I wrote it while switching the foreground focus between him and the student. And I decided that it was more valuable to tell the story from her perspective, as I wasn’t at all interested in finding excuses or motivations for him. In any case, the film does not aim to find any solutions, as such; rather, it’s an invitation to analyse this long-standing form of harassment that we all know happens and which may continue to happen for a long time to come. Especially in a country like Romania, where, according to a study conducted by the European Union, 55% of the respondents think that rape is excusable in some cases.
Răzvan Vasilescu and Dana Rogoz create some very good chemistry in your film. Did you write the screenplay with them in mind? How did you work together?
From the very beginning, I wrote the screenplay especially for them. I knew Răzvan Vasilescu from Lucian Pintilie’s films, and I was so glad that he believed in the screenplay and he trusted me enough to agree to play this part in my first feature. Coincidentally, Răzvan Vasilescu was Dana Rogoz’s acting professor at UNATC [the National University of Theatre and Film in Bucharest], but this was just a bonus. Their relationship developed gradually during rehearsals, and when we started production, they knew their characters’ intentions perfectly well. Things worked out marvellously, given that we only had 13 shooting days, as the budget was quite small.
One could say that the #MeToo movement did not truly reverberate or take hold in Romania. Do you think Mo may spark, or at least help to spark, a debate?
We shot the film before #MeToo, and it was not our plan to demonstrate anything or to talk about a local #MeToo. Only after the movie was made did we realise that it would be associated with the movement, and we were glad because it can truly be an opportunity to debate the issue. As you correctly point out, the movement didn’t actually spread to Romania. It was mostly debated in our bubble, quickly being reduced to jokes about actresses and directors, as if #MeToo would only be related to the film industry. Honestly, I would love the movie to prompt a debate, but I don’t dare hope too much. Dana Rogoz is planning a series of meetings in universities this autumn in order to talk openly about sexual harassment in this specific environment. It may help students.
When a film like Mo is released, one may come to realise that Romanian cinema frequently returns to a few favourite topics. What can be done in order to broach a wider range of topics?
I respect Romanian cinema – the references in Mo stand as proof of this, but it was never my goal to make my film part of a certain wave by choosing a particular topic. Also, I have never planned to systematically go against the wave. All I wanted was to tell a credible story. As for the diversity of topics, I think that, at least over the last few years, our cinema has not been lacking in courage.
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