The director, film producer and executive director of the Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF) Oana Giurgiu returns with a new documentary, after her 2015 "Aliyah DaDa." "Occasional spies" is based on true facts and testimonies, and recreates the story of unusual espionage acts that had a decisive influence on how WWII unfolded: the story of ordinary people recruited from among young Zionists in Palestine, sent back to their home countries in Eastern Europe, including Romania, to get information on the Germans.
The documentary premiered in 2021 and won an honorary jury mention in the Romanian section of the 2021 Astra Film Festival in Sibiu. A guest of RRI, Oana Bujgoi Giurgiu said she had spent a lot of time researching, and that the story had a starting point in a scene from her first movie, Aliyah DaDa.
Oana Bujgoi Giurgiu: "This is a story from WWII, more precisely the year 1944, a year with a lot of turmoil and unexpected changes, a year when the war seemed to be drawing to a close and solutions were being searched to find out the fate of the Allied prisoners of war in Eastern Europe. And at that point somebody in a secret service had this really bold and unusual idea, to recruit ordinary people and send them to Eastern Europe, because this mission could not have been accomplished by British or American spies, they would have been caught immediately. So this idea came up, to recruit spies from among the people who had managed to immigrate to Palestine before the war. In short, the plot of "Occasional Spies" is similar to a real-life version of "Inglorious Basterds" and I have to admit that Quentin Tarantino's film was an inspiration for me. The story is fairly unknown in Romania and equally little known in the other countries where the events took place. Unfortunately, we are used to learning in schools about our local and national history, placed in a broader international context, but we are never told how certain political or military decisions affect the countries around us, our immediate neighbours."
In orderto retrace the story of the occasional spies, the director Oana Bujgoi Giurgiu resorted to a series of photos made by Alex Gâlmeanu. Letiţia Ștefănescu was in charge of editing, the sound design was entrusted to Sebastian Zsemlye, and the original score was written by Matei Stratan. The film was shot in Romania, Israel and Slovakia.
Oana Bujgoi Giurgiu: "I am an occasional film director. It was the same with my first film, because I set out to tell many impressive, rich stories, which I felt deserved to be known. In this particular case, of documentaries concerning stories from the past, the problem is that the images provided by film archives, the only ones you have access to from the respective period, are rather scarce. Moreover, a war was going on, which means that the images one can use in a film of this kind are more often than not frontline footage and diaries kept by those involved. I was trying to illustrate the personal backgrounds of my characters, so I had to come up with a solution to bring these images to life, so I chose these series of photographs. It was a tremendous amount of work, which I would never do again. I have been working with the editor Letiția Ștefănescu for a long time now, and we usually share a lot of the work in a film, I cannot claim sole authorship. But with this film, I must mention all those who took part in making it. Alex Gâlmeanu, the author of the photographs, is an amazing artist, the original score was written by Matei Stratan and actually the entire soundtrack is a work of art in itself. Sebastian Zsemlye was in charge of the sound design. And I truly believe that "Occasional Spies" is a demonstration of what team work should be."
The cast of the film includes the actors Paul Ipate, Daniel Achim, Ioan Paraschiv, Mihai Niță, George Bîrsan, alongside many amateur actors. Istvan Teglas, Ionuț Grama and Radu Bânzaru also contributed voiceover for the characters. (AMP)