Romanian helmer’s pic made of tough ‘Stuff’

Puiu's film surrounded by controversy

CANNES — Cristi Puiu’s “Stuff and Dough,” the Romanian entry in the Directors Fortnight, comes to Cannes from its home territory leaving a trail of financial and creative controversy.

It almost didn’t make it. Most of the film’s $350,000 budget was lost in the mists of creative accounting, leaving the actors, director, screenwriter and crew unpaid at the end of the shoot.

Execs from the production company Ro-Film are now the target of a police investigation.

Meanwhile, the pic languished with no coin for post-production until its cause was championed by Romanian helmer Lucian Pintilie, who doubles as artistic director of the Romanian Culture Ministry Film Studio.

But once the film was completed, it fell afoul of the National Film Commission (CNC), which had put up 62.5% of the budget.

The CNC had originally come on board because the script, by Puiu and Razvan Radulescu, won a national screenplay competition.

But the state org decided that the film was not sufficiently “artistic,” lacked commercial appeal and contained way too much bad language by the three main characters, who embark on a road trip from the seaside town of Constanta to the capital city Bucharest.

The CNC thus decided to release “Stuff and Dough” on just one print March 11, via state-owned Romania Film. It lasted just one week.

But a month ago, the call came from Directors Fortnight chief Marie Pierre Macia inviting the film to Cannes. Even then, some influential voices within the Romanian film industry said the film should not be allowed to travel because it put the country to shame.

And the problems continued. One of the young actors was fired from the play he was performing in because he didn’t get back in time from the Romanian premiere of the film.

But somehow the three leads and the pic’s creators made it to Cannes. Despite the problems at home, in Cannes it’s their party, and they had better enjoy it, because on Monday they are going back.