Podul Peste Tisa

The construction worker whispers right into the camera, as if he would be talking to you. “I found a dwarf at the construction side the other day. I have to show him to you. He has no head. He is just like this construction side. It also has no head.”

The old bridge between Sighet/Romania and Slatina/Ukraine was destroyed by German troops during World War II. Since than the Tisza River separates not only the two towns, but also friends and family members. Thanks to EU funds the historical bridge gets renovated. And yet still nobody is allowed to cross it.

Ileana Stanculescus film shows the long, often absurd fight of local inhabitants and politicians on their way to reconnect the two towns again after 50 years of separation – and their failure. A new bridge – and yet the only possible communication for relatives and friends remains by shouting across the river. Podul Peste Tisa won the First Appearance Award at the International Documentary Film Festival 2004 (Amsterdam).

Why did you decide to make this movie?
My father helped the local politicians to apply for the EU funds to rebuild the bridge. Once he took me along to Sighet to a meeting. It was really funny. The men were having their talks over wodka and in the sauna. The separation interested me very much. And the simple way the people and politicians tried to overcome the problem fascinated me.

What surprised you the most by shooting the film?
That it took them so long to finally rebuild the bridge. So many things went wrong. First they built the pillars. But than nothing happened forever. Than some of the building material got stolen. And so on and so on. I really thought we get there, film for 2-3 weeks and we will be done. But instead we had to came back over and over again.

But than the bridge finally got done…
Yes, but still nobody is allowed to cross it! It is so absurd. I thought that my film was going to have a happy end. That we film how the bridge gets rebuild and how it finally connects the two towns after such a long time again. But instead we documented the sad fact, that Sighet and Slatina are still at the forgotten edge of the European Union.

Why is nobody allowed to cross the bridge?
It does not fulfill EU standards….Romania is a future member of the EU and that is why the border crossing needs to be at super high standards. But there is simply no money to fulfill the standards of such a modern border crossing. And the EU does not care about it…the investment keeps missing.

Who did you make this film for?
I guess for a Western European audience. The film is narrated in a slow and patient way. A style I learned during my studies and that I really like a lot. In Western Europe the film is very well perceived, but in Romania it simply does not work. For Romanians it is too slow, they do not like this observing perspective or that there is no voice-over to explain things. I guess in Romania there is simply another taste, another habit of watching films.

Interview: Nadina Wojcik, Berlin

Ileana Stanculescu, 28, born in Bukarest, has studied dramaturgy at Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen ‘Konrad Wolff’ in Potsdam.

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