Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude’s social satire and Berlin Competition title Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn is one of the rare productions of the last 12 months to have fully incorporated the pandemic into the storyline, with its cast wearing masks throughout. The production is the culmination of an intense 12 months for lead producer Ada Solomon at Bucharest-based Microfilm.
Solomon was with Jude at the Berlinale last year for the world premiere of his film Uppercase Print playing in Forum, and also to participate in the Berlinale Co-Production Market for his next project, which would become Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn. A co-production with a French partner had fallen through and the pair were on the hunt for replacements.
They were in luck. Over the course of the five-day event, Solomon reconnected with longtime collaborators Paul Thiltges at Luxembourg-based Paul Thiltges Distributions, Ankica Juric Tilic at Zagreb’s Kinorama and Jiri Konecny at Prague-based Endorfilm. Over lunches, they set out the rough next steps for co-operation.
Back in Bucharest, however, Solomon found herself facing the challenge of lockdown by mid-March. “There was no pandemic support in Romania for the cultural sector,” explains Solomon. “We could see all these initiatives being rolled out in other countries, but here there was nothing. The Romanian Film Centre (CNC) shut up shop and didn’t even maintain its regular funding sessions.”
At the time, Solomon was also in the middle of pre-production on Stefan Constantinescu’s debut feature Man And Dog and post-production on Chernobyl legacy documentary Everything Will Not Be Fine. “It was intense,” she smiles. “On the one hand, we are trying to keep working under these new conditions, making plans B, C and D. On the other, we were building solidarity within the cultural community to face the [Romanian] authorities and set out our case for support.”
Solomon’s most pressing challenge was to figure out what to do with Man And Dog, which had been due to shoot in May. The story revolves around a Romanian man working in Sweden and trying to get home to his wife, suspicious that she is having an affair.
“We decided to incorporate the pandemic into the script,” says the producer. “We felt it reinforced the story, with issues of isolation, the impossibility of travel and pressure on decision-making heightening the challenges facing the protagonist.”
Man And Dog’s shoot was rescheduled for August. Concurrently, Solomon was overseeing post-production on Everything Will Not Be Fine, about the relationship between directors Helena Maksyom and Adrian Pirvu, who bonded over their chronic health problems linked to Chernobyl. “One director was based in Bucharest, the other in Kiev, and the editor was in Zagreb. Then just as we were due to start editing in Zagreb, there was an earthquake,” Solomon recalls, referring to the March 22 event. The film would eventually premiere during last year’s virtual International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.
In the meantime, Solomon and Jude decided to bring October shoot dates for Bad Luck Banging forward to the summer, amid rising expectations of a second wave of Covid-19 in the autumn. Like Man And Dog, they took the decision to incorporate the pandemic but Jude’s approach was even more radical.
“It is a film about the biases and prejudices of society and the pandemic added another layer,” says Solomon. “Radu integrated the conspiracy theory, the anti-maskers and also took the decision that the actors would be masked on the screen the whole time.”
Jude’s thinking was practical as well as creative. The production did not have the budget to test the cast and crew daily, so opted for testing at the start of the shoot and then again midway through the production. “As well as being incredibly creative, Radu is also extremely practical as a filmmaker. Keeping the cast and crew masked throughout was also a way of protecting their health,” says Solomon, who adds that not a single case of Covid-19 among the cast or crew was linked to the shoot.
As the film begins its journey at the Berlinale, Solomon believes it will stand the test of time, even if it is very much grounded in the moment. “The film is crazy as you can hear from the title, but at the same time we wanted to leave a statement for the period we are living,” she says. “We want to make films that reflect the world we live in, bear testimony of the times and the way we are thinking and behaving today.”