Shielded by the Camera

[interview by Marinela Domančić, published in Festival Daily 03]

Mr Dăscălescu, we had the opportunity to see both of your previous feature documentaries here in Sarajevo. Even when you were personally intrigued and involved, they both were observing documentaries. How different was it to work on this film, as it was purely about yourself?

With my new film, Holy Father, I reach out to my own father, trying to find answers and reconciliation, while at the same time facing unexpected parenthood with my girlfriend. So, my situation was difficult, and documenting it was always challenging, sometimes even painful. On the other hand, the idea of making this film helped me surface some life-long questions about my parents and gave me more courage to face the unknown territory of creating my own family. In that regard, the camera acted as a shield, and helped me oversee this very personal process as a film project, which probably kept me sane in difficult moments.

Twelve years ago, when you made your first feature documentary Constantin and Elena, you were far away from your own parenthood. However, you were already deeply interested in family relationships, love and harmony, and admired your grandparents’ long-lasting love and marriage full of simple little things that make up life. How much their example meant to you whilst you were searching for your father who left his own family to serve God?

Holy Father is the most personal documentary I could ever make. You could, to some extent, consider Holy Father a sequel to Constantin and Elena, but in a very different way: After showing what could have been, I explore the reasons why it didn’t work for me and my parents, while trying to start with a clean slate in my own parenthood endeavour.

Part of my love for Constantin and Elena was because I found in their relationship everything that I was missing in my broken family. Filming their everyday lives and love was magical, therapeutic, and inspiring (as was the film, for so many people). Their example is something that I’m trying to aim for, but unfortunately there is no secret recipe. I am afraid that it is becoming harder and harder to have a family like my grandparents had, in today’s world. So, I think most people will also strongly relate to some parts of my new film.

The announcement of your partner’s pregnancy is recorded. Was that a moment when you decided to make this film, or did you come up with the idea at some other point?

When Paula told me that her period was late and she’d take a pregnancy test, I asked if I could film it, joking that it could prove to be a historic moment, if the test turned out positive. But we were in a rather complicated relationship and had never considered becoming parents, so we both rather hoped the result would be negative. But it wasn’t. And we both panicked. And soon enough, I got the idea to make this film, both about us and our preparations for parenthood (as we both come from broken families), and about my own father and our ‘extreme’ case of abandonment, as he didn’t leave his family for a new one, but for serving God. I did think about visiting my father before, but I guess I was just waiting for the right moment, and when I found out that I was going to become a father, I felt like I had a countdown, like I needed to understand my own father before becoming a father myself.

The honour to open the Competition Programme – Documentary Film usually goes to a film that represents the best of last year’s author’s cinema. Holy Father has already won several prizes (as a project), starting last year with IDFA Award for Most Promising Project at the Docu Rough Cut Boutique here in Sarajevo, within the Cine Link, and continued with the main prize by Film Centre Serbia and at Last Stop Trieste – When East Meets West. This year, it will open the programme in Sarajevo. Please share your thoughts about it and tell us what you expect.

First and utmost, I expect to be there. If travel restriction will keep me from being in Sarajevo, it will be a sad day – it is the world premiere of my most personal film, and I cannot wait to see it together with Sarajevo Film Festival’s audience, even if we do keep two spare seats between each of us. It is myself, my family, my fears, my soul on the screen, so beyond any awards or official recognition, I just hope that people will relate to my film, will find it heart-warming and inspiring. I remember my co-editor, Stefan, told me that he was talking to his own father much more often than ever, while he was working on my film. So, I think people watching my film will think about their parents or their children and could put more thought into fixing things that need to be fixed in their relationships. I was at Sarajevo Film Festival in the Talents workshop, then I came back with both my previous films, and finally in Docu Rough Cut Boutique, last year, when I was finishing Holy Father. So it feels like coming “home” for the world premiere, and I cannot wait for it!

[LATER EDIT] Sarajevo Film Festival canceled live screenings at the last moment, so Holy Father was only showed online. But, it won the Special Jury Award!