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Competition “If the Seed Doesn’t Die” Interview with Sinisa Dragin (Director), Simona Stoicescu (actress), Ioana Barbu (actress) (10/27)

Competition “If the Seed Doesn’t Die” Interview with Sinisa Dragin (Director), Simona Stoicescu (actress), Ioana Barbu (actress) (10/27)

Two stories converge in “If the Seed Doesn’t Die.” Two fathers, a Romanian searching for his daughter who was forced into prostitution in Kosovo, and a Serbian seeking the body of his son killed in an accident, meet on the river Danube, where a boatman recounts the 200 year-old legend of peasants struggling to move an old wooden church.
The following is an interview with the director, Sinisa Dragin, for whom this is a third film, Simona Stoicescu, who played Nora, the freewheeling prostitute, and Ioana Barbu, who played Ina, the girl who was forced into prostitution in Kosovo.
©2010 TIFF

---You were born in Serbia and studied films in Romania. This film seems to reflect your viewpoint well as you know the two worlds very well.

Sinisa Dragin (Dragin): During the communist era, The River Danube separated the two worlds. The Romanian system was very strict while Serbia was betwixt and between, so many Romanians crossed the river to Serbia by swimming or by boat. Against such a backdrop, various people come and go vertiginously in the village, and illegal activities are widespread. I think the Danube is like a blood vessel that flows through Eastern Europe, and in this film I portrayed the Danube as a symbol that connects the Eastern European countries.
©2010 TIFF

---The father still wears a medal from Tito while the son was sent to Kosovo, possibly as a member of a security force then bombed by NATO and left for Romania in despair. I wonder if the breakdown of relationships like this really happened after the conflict.

Dragin: Yes, I researched about people who got dragged into the Kosovo conflict to write the script. Serbian families did experience dissociation and Romanian girls did get taken to Kosovo and forced into prostitution.

---Is the legend in the film actually passed on?

Dragin: It is a legend in the north western part of Romania. I came across this legend about 10 years ago which motivated me to make this film. The legend in the film is shortened rather than adding anything to it, however, the last scene where the couple are led to the church is my dramatisation.

---The shooting of the part about the legend is grand, was it hard to do?

Dragin: I asked carpenters who build churches to build a church in a typical local style. An ordinary church will collapse if you try to move it, so it was built especially light weight at 12 tons, and reinforced with beams to withstand the pulling. We managed to pull it with three bulls in the first scene, but we had to use three tractors for the winter scene as it was frozen.

---Not only did you describe the legend but you linked it to a story in the modern era. What is the reason behind that?

Dragin: Brilliant legends stay alive, so I wanted the characters in the modern era to somehow slip into the legend. That is why the characters are in the legend at the ending, but different people in completely different circumstances may become a part of the legend tomorrow. I think legends are an expression of each country. Each country should have excellent legends along with distinctive characteristics and pride, rather than the world becoming homogenous.

---Ms. Stoicescu and Ms. Barbu, what are your interpretation of your characters?

Simona Stoicescu (Stoicescu): I have played a prostitute many times on TV and on stage, but Nora essentially wants to enjoy life. She may be thinking about complicated matters, and it is by no means to live a simple life, but I think she did it instinctively.
©2010 TIFF

Ioana Barbu (Barbu): Ina is robbed of everything; she is fed up with everything and wants to put an end to it all. She has been driven to the last ditch. I support women like her through theatres, so I know their situations very well. Many women kill themselves after they come out of prostitution because they are so damaged.
©2010 TIFF

---What is the significance for you to have participated in this film?

Stoicescu: I have matured considerably within myself, and this will influence my future performances greatly. I knew when I read the script that the film will be great, but you never know unless you actually see it. I saw the finished film for the first time today, and I am pleased to have been a part of such a brilliant film. This will remain a special film in my life.

Barbu:I want to remain as an actress but unfortunately only a few films are made in a year in Romania, and the opportunity is limited. This is my second film. I hesitated a little when I was asked, because I was concerned about the level of violence and cruelty in the rape scene. In the end it is done by interweaving extreme scenes and church scenes, so I am glad I took on the role.

The world of legend and the chaotic Eastern Europe in the modern era, two contrasting prostitutes, tragic elements and comical elements, the dead and the living. As if led by the phantom church on the Danube, everything comes together. As suggested by the title, hope emerges from death in an ending which is deeply emotional.

(Interviewed by Masaaki Oba)

If the Seed Doesn't Die
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KEIRIN.JPThe 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
22nd Tokyo International Film Festival(2009)