On a rainy and blustery October 3 evening in the shivering festival tent at Allende-Platz, Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude sat down to an interview with journalist Anne Backhaus. As he glanced around at his audience of approximately eight people including the film crew, he looked a bit skeptical at Backhaus who asserted that so many people had approached her whispering excitedly about the interview. Still he dutifully answered her questions in spite of the most austere and uninviting ambiance. At least he had a glass of wine to sip.
Backhaus had done her homework, and announced that Jude had won the Silver Bear at the 2015 Berlinale for best director for the film Aferim. She said he was well known as a filmmaker and explorer of the dark side of his country’s history. Then they began discussing his movie I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS whose title (understandably) she stumbled over in her first attempt to say.
Backhaus with her soft-spoken, probing questions eventually did encourage Jude to open up. Both were speaking English and were somewhat disadvantaged that they didn’t always have the right word or phrase at their fingertips.
Jude began by admitting that people often assume he is Jewish himself, because his last name Jude means Jew in German. He explained it is a Romanian name; he is not Jewish, but perhaps as a psychoanalytical interpretation, there is a link. (Later he abruptly jumped down from the stage and grabbed his mobile phone to show the interviewer he is being trolled by anti-Semites in the internet. There are photos of him brandished with a Star of David. He is also accused of being Judas betraying his country for 30 thirty pieces of gold after winning his latest film award, the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)
Jude explained that after World War II the nationalistic Communist regime in Romania had sanitized its history; when he was in school, no mention had been made of the Romanians’ wartime atrocities against the Jews and gypsies. When he was eighteen and the Communist government had fallen, he and his generation unearthed the terrible truth. What made the discovery so tantalizing was that the massacres during the Romanian Holocaust had been hidden for so long.
He lamented that things are again changing in Romania, like in Poland and Hungary anti-European nationalism is emerging. He is not convinced the movie, which he began four years ago, could be made in the same way today including permission to film at the National Military Museum (a Disneyland glorifying the military past). The Orthodox Church has now become like an unofficial political party and banded together with the government.
He confided, now everything is becoming a little bit tricky.
Jude explained that the older he gets, the less he wants to entertain when making a movie. A good story is not enough for him. He has made this film more complex, opening it to other media, and deliberately intellectually challenging. He wanted to show new ways to use a camera, to open up the film to materials not usually considered cinematic. He included elements filmmakers don’t do: filming photographs, filming someone reading a text for five minutes, and watching an archive film for three or four minutes.
As to whether or not his alter ego is the theater director Mariana in the film….is she really he? He answered, that is an unavoidable interpretation, but too simple. He as a filmmaker is represented by every single aspect of the film.
Jude emphasized he didn’t really care how his audiences reacted to his films, whether they laughed or cried. He would be happy if they would leave his films thinking, using them as resource tools to make something based on what he had shown. Entertainment is not the important thing. Filming is about thinking and reflecting and acting on it.
He is in the process of making two new films with a third one in mind. One is about another Romanian massacre. The second takes place in Romania in the ‘80s based on a play including Stasi-type secret files meshed with Romanian television footage. He didn’t talk about the third film.