Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Real to Reel

Crulic – The Path To Beyond

Saturday, 18th February, 6.10pm, Light House

Anca Damian is a well-known cinematographer, director, writer and producer and in this, her first animated feature, she delivers the beautifully made, well-told and shockingly recent (2008) story of Claudiu Crulic. Claudiu is a 33 year-old Romanian who went on hunger strike after being wrongly accused of theft in Poland. Narrated by the protagonist from beyond the grave, Crulic chronicles the events that lead up to his death.

The film begins with a phone call to Crulic’s uncle from Polish authorities telling him that Crulic is dead. His mother and sister go to Poland to identify him, which they find difficult, as he had lost about 30KG and looked much older than he was. As they journey home with Crulic’s body, the story commences. He begins with his childhood, which is a typical story of a boy born into a poor family, whose parents separated when he was very young. He was left in the care of his father but was raised by his aunts and uncles. He left school early as the family needed money and went to work in a garage. He then began travelling to Poland with his Uncle buying various trinkets (that were unavailable in Romania) and selling them. He is then arrested and this is where his life changes forever.

The style of animation is very beautiful – but dark. The medley of animated styles used throughout the film serve to really hold the viewer’s attention and ultimately lend themselves to the tragic nature of the story. Collage, line drawings, watercolors, stop motion and a small amount of live action along with the narration by one of Romania’s top actors, Vlad Ivanov, creates a visual and auditory spectacle. The bleak colours and often childlike line drawings evoke further empathy for Crulic and the events that unfold after his imprisonment. The transitions between animation styles are seamless and stylish. The small details in the animation, for me, had the greatest impact. This is clearly evident in the distressing scenes where he is in prison wasting away from hunger lying in the foetal position. The lines become thinner, sketchier, the colours of his clothes and face change and become bleaker and more transparent.

The story is mainly told visually but the slow, steady pace and the sadness in the voice of the narrator completely envelops you. Crulic’s own letters, photographs and documents are incorporated with animated images and when the film ends and the credits are rolling, real news footage is shown, bringing the audience back to reality with a bang. The introduction of news footage at this point reminds us that this is a real story and these injustices can and really do happen.

There was a Q&A session immediately after the showing with the director of the film Anca Damian. Damian related how unconditionally trusting and supportive Crulic’s family were during the making the film and their intention to go to trial using the film to prove his innocence. Damian describes Crulic – The Path to Beyond as a story about the dignity of human beings and human rights.

The film was very well received although there were some comments from the audience about how critics view animated documentaries and how they might not be as respected and not as believable as live-action documentaries.  Damian described how she made an animated feature rather than a live action documentary, having conducted her research for a year and collected countless documents and photographs.  The contrast between the starkness of real events and the creative medium of animation strengthens what is a visually unusual, moving and thoroughly enjoyable documentary.

Michelle Cunningham

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