Bogdan Mirica [interview]

Interview with Bogdan Mirica,
director and screenwriter of Bora Bora

By Roberto Rippa

After graduating in Journalism, Bogdan worked as an editor, copywriter and novelist.
Nonetheless, his interests in cinema led him to study Screenwriting and Producing at the University of Westminster, London and then to a career in the industry. He began as a script reader for Slingshot Studios in London and then he started his collaboration with MediaPro Pictures. After writing several scripts (“Ho Ho Ho”, “Rural Story” and “180”) he got to direct his own project, “Bora Bora”, in 2010.

Roberto Rippa: Bora Bora is your first film, where did the ispiration for it come from?

Bogdan Mirica: The core story – about a guy who grows cannabis by accident and whose crop is then burnt down by overzealous cops – is said to have happened for real, many years ago in Romania. My guess is this is just one of those urban legends – a rural legend in our case. But, overall, I like to think that Bora Bora is more than a story about a cannabis anecdote. And the inspiration, to answer your question, is everyday Romania.

RR: I read that you studied screenwriting in England and that you wrote a few screenplay. What made you decide to direct?

BM: I always wanted to direct, but I waited until I felt it was the right time, the right project. I believe directing is the kind of craft that grows on you – and you have to grow as a person to be ready for it.
On a more professional note, I was never pleased with what other directors did with my screenplays. I’m not saying they were necessarily bad, they were different than what I intended when I had written the respective screenplays. So I said to myself: you can either stay aside and whine about it, or you can jump ahead, take a risk and get your hands dirty.

RR: Bora Bora starts as a description of life in a rural, poor, place and then it turns to comedy and ends with a touch of slapstick comedy. Do you think that comedy helps in making realism more believable and deep in cinema?

BM: Laughter is much more serious than people credit it to be. Yeah, you can have people slipping on a banana peel, or throwing pies at each other’s faces. But the origins of laughter are serious. Back then when cavemen roamed the Earth, humans used to laugh in the absence of fear – whenever they felt comfortable, maybe whenever they had some hope they might make it to the next day, they’d crack up a smile and then burst into laughter.
I definitely believe laughter adds and extra-layer of realism and life in cinema – as long as we’re not talking about dumb dime-a-dozen comedies. And I also think that laughter works better with drama, than with more laughter.

RR: Your film, in fact, tells a personal story with a great humour but this doesn’t hide a serious criticism for a situation created in a place that seems forgotten by everybody, politicians included.

BM: Yeah – but I didn’t want to make it very political. I didn’t want to point a finger to anyone in particular, just to have a glimpse at the absurdity of life, in general – and there’s no one really you can blame for that. Every character in the movie is a little guilty, everyone is somehow innocent.

RR: The acting in Bora Bora is great. How did you work with the actors?

BM: They say working with actors for a first-time director can be a drag. That wasn’t the case at all for me. I think my greatest advantage was the fact that all the actors seemed to have liked the screenplay. Actually when writing the screenplay, I thought that every part – even the tiniest one – should be juicy in a way. Ideally, every actor involved should be given the chance to create a golden nugget – no matter how small it is.
So I like to think that each actor enjoyed his part – and I think you can see that on the screen. But what really fascinates me is what happens when an actor comes with his/ her own proposal based on what you’ve written. If you’re lucky you can strike gold.

RR: This is a question I ask every Romanian director I get to meet: For a few years now everybody’s been talking about a Romanian new wave in cinema. Do you believe in such a thing? Do you think there’s something in common between the works by so different directors such as Porumboiu, Sitaru, Mungiu, Mitulescu, Puiu, Crisan and now you?
Whenever I ask this, all the directors answer more or less that they do not believe that there’s a Romanian new wave. This summer, Anca Damian, the director of Crulic, answered me that there’s something in common: the humour in telling reality which is a peculiarity for Romanians. Do you agree?

BM: For me personally, is not that important how you call it. There’s something that definitely changed ten years ago, with Cristi Puiu’s Stuff and Dough. And it changed for the better. That’s not to say we didn’t have brilliant directors and movies before – maybe they just weren’t as internationally recognized (being under the communist regime and all that). For me it is more interesting to see Romanian directors as individuals, not as part of a trend, or a wave. I’m more interested in the intricacies of a film, rather than the critical aspects of it – that will ultimately place it on a shelf under a certain label. That’s the theorist’s job, not mine.
As regards humor as a common thread, I’m not that convinced – there’s plenty of it in Nae Caranfil’s work (who is his own genre, by the way) or Porumboiu’s, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that humor is one of the Romanian new wave’s traits.

RR: Ion, your main character, lives a weird reality and then he gets caught in a deeply weird situation. The writing is very precise and the directing too. How long have you worked on the script? And how long did the shooting last?

BM: I wrote a first draft of the screenplay about 9-10 years ago – but when it really started to get in shape was a year ago. During the preproduction I wrote it and rewrote it a couple of times, trying to tie all the loose ends, to make it funnier and thinking for the first time from a director’s point of view – that changed it considerably.
All in all, it took me maybe a couple of months.
The shooting lasted precisely 7 days.

RR: Did this first experience as a director changed somehow your perspective as a writer? If yes, how?

BM: No matter how gifted you are as a writer, a screenplay will always be just a blueprint of the film. Words on a page will never reach the complexity of that fantastic juxtaposition that is directing: people and emotions, props, cranes and lenses, light and shadow, music, sound and silence. If you want to be a happy screenwriter, become a director.

RR: Bora Bora got a prize at the Transilvania FIlm Festival a few weeks before being presented in Locarno. What’s happening now? Is it still around in festivals?

BM: Yeah, we went to Warsaw Film Fest, we opened La Cabina – Festival Internacional de Mediometrajes in Valencia, we’re going to Thessaloniki Int’l Film Festival and we’ll see what happens next.

RR: Are you currently working on a new project as a writer or director?

BM: I have a couple of different projects in development at the moment (all of them as writer/ director) – but you never know whether they will pan out or not and if they do, when. We’re nor exactly living the coziest of times.

November 2011

Read the article on Bora Bora in Rapporto Confidenziale

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