Catalin Mitulescu (producer and director) on If I want to whistle, I whistle
Monday 17 January 2011
Catalin Mitulescu is the co-writer and producer of If I want to whistle, I whistle. We talked to him after the film premiered at the Paris Film Festival in July 2010.
Catalin is best known for his film Trafic, which won him the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2004.
How did the idea for the story come about?
The idea initially came about years ago during some work we did in prison. My wife wrote the script for a play based on her observations. I had the idea of developing it as a film. I had many of the characters formed but no overall plot to link them and to give the film its substance. I worked on other projects in the meantime and came back to it periodically. Then I got to know and like Florin’s directing work. I wanted to suggest a script for him and my brother recommended this one. We developed the story further and ended up with the film in its present state.
Explain the title.
This is actually the title of the original play written by my wife. She got the idea from those questionnaires sociologists made detainees fill out, which featured exercises in which they had to complete sentences, such as if I want to… I… and a detainee suggested whistle and it stuck!
How did you work with the actors? Were any of the professionals?
Florin and I organised workshops with actual detainees for the most part. None of them are professional actors. We worked with them over a couple of months than had a sort of casting session where we selected the actors for the film. George Pistereanu who plays Silviu was actually a university student who took up drama after his work on this film.
Do the events in the film represent something of a regular occurrence in Romania?
The actual hostage-taking situation is something that can occasionally happen in a prison. But what the film does emphasise is the growing instability at the heart of families in Romania in which a parent has to go work abroad. It happens more and more, children grow up with increasingly absent fathers. It’s not the lack of parental love that’s the problem but the inconsistency of their presence.
In your opinion, why the sudden growth in popularity of Romanian cinema?
Florin and I belong to a new generation of directors who grew up under Communism in Romania. Films were very important to us, we went to some length to get our hands on them. After all these years, we all had important messages and stories we wanted to share and this medium already held a special place for us, so it really kick-started the film industry.