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M.F.A. Interview with Toma Enache

Between Pain and Amen”

Written and directed by Toma Enache

1 - First of all, congratulations for your remarkable feature film!

How were your first steps as a director?

Thank you! I m happy you liked it! I made my debut with a feature film spoken in the Aromanian language, a film entitled I'm not famous but I'm Aromanian. It was released in 2013 and it was the first film ever made in Aromanian, an old language still spoken today in parts of Greece, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. We shot parts of the film in all these countries and in the US.

All my grandparents were from Greece, my father was born in North Macedonia and my mother in Bulgaria, and their language was Aromanian. So I wanted to make this film in honor of their origins and language. Let's not forget that the Manakia Brothers, the first filmmakers in the Balkans were Aromanian. They shot their first film 10 years after the Lumiere brothers – a silent film, of course. So I had a very strong drive to make this film spoken in Aromanian, 108 years on. We got some national and international awards and the film was very well received by audiences at home and abroad. All these gave me the confidence to go on, so I continued with two documentaries and, in 2019, with the feature film BETWEEN PAIN AND AMEN.

2 - What is the life of the filmmaker like in Romania?

I don't think the life of a filmmaker in Romania is much different from that of filmmakers in other European countries. We are dealing much or less with the same challenges, the biggest of which is having a reasonable budget for our productions. I am glad that we have many young and talented people here, passionate about making films. I worked with some of them on my latest production and I think they did a great job.

3 - Tell us about the backstage. What were the most complex or difficult things you had to solve during filming?

Most of the film was shot inside an actual prison. I wanted to present the horrors of the communist prisons as faithfully as I could. The inmates used to be held in cold, wet cells, with the windows barricaded, as they were not allowed to see the sunlight. One of the challenges was to recreate that dark atmosphere inside the cells. Being a film about torture and pain, based on true events, I was constantly trying to strike a balance between sufferance (life in prison) and joy (happy memories, freedom), so as to make it bearable for the audience to watch it. Even so, many people tell me it is hard to watch. But in the memory of the prisoners who were tortured and killed there, and in honor of the survivors, some of whom were present at the premiere, I had to tell the truth, even if some find it unbearable. Then, the fact that we shot in an actual communist prison, fully aware of the fact that innocent people were tortured and killed there, was very challenging emotionally for the entire team. We felt we had to give it all, to be our best version in our attempt to tell their extraordinary story to the world.

4 - Which directors do you think have influenced you in your work?

Innaritu, Fellini, Almodovar, Orson Wells and more recently Bong Joon-ho are some of my favorite directors, but there are many others.

5 - Do you have another project in mind with a similar approach?

I usually pick a theme that has a powerful meaning, about extraordinary people or extraordinary events. I want the story to be based on, or connected to the reality. Usually, a strong story reveals a powerful or painful truth that in most cases is kept in the dark. In my films, I like to bring the truth to light, no matter how hard this is or how much some people might resent it. This is the only thing that gives my work a meaning.

6 - How was the relationship with your team during the filming?

I carefully select the team I work with, because we have to get along like a family in order to get the expected result. So I surround myself with talented people, who are at least as passionate about making films as I am. I worked with the same DOP on my both feature films, Alexander Sachs from Germany. He is extremely talented and intuitive. We speak English on set because I don't understand German and he doesn't speak Romanian, but we need very few words to understand each other. I get deeply involved in the work of all departments, such as set design and music and I have a very clear idea of how I want the film to look like, from the scriptwriting stage.

7 – Can you tell us something about your next job?

I have started working on the script and I get more excited by the day. Just like Between pain and amen, it will be deeply rooted into reality but it will be very different from my first two feature films. I will definitely submit it to the MFA. I think you do a great job with the festival.

Madrid Film Awards - Interviews / @madridfilm.awards

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