Tag Archives: Luna Film

A Decade with Alice

Dimitra Kouzi Interviews Isabela von Tent, Alice On & Off before the world premiere in the international competition at Krakow Film Festival 2024

Dimitra Kouzi: What made you stay with Alice and film her story for more than ten years?

Isabela von Tent: The story goes back to 2014. I was in film school and, for an exam, I needed to make a documentary portrait of someone interesting. I had just moved to Bucharest a year before and barely knew anyone outside of school. Back in my tiny hometown in Transylvania, things were different. So, I asked my classmates for suggestions on interesting subjects. One of them, who also happens to be the sound guy on the film, knew Dorian and thought he could be a good subject. I found out he had a very young wife, and that's how I met Alice.

DK: How did that first encounter go?

IT: We were both shy. At the first shoot, I was super polite, asking formal questions, and Dorian gave these long-winded replies. Alice was mostly taking care of their child. After a few days of filming with them, I finally built up the courage to ask Alice if she wanted to talk. She said yes, but only after asking Dorian's permission, which he casually gave.

DK: And what kept you coming back?

IT: In the beginning, it was the exoticness of their lifestyle that drew me in, something completely unfamiliar to me. It took me a while to realize that we had similar pasts. I was raised by grandparents too, and my childhood wasn't easy, not like hers, but I understood her feelings – that longing for love and guidance while growing up.

DK: What exactly made you curious about them?

IT: It was the first time I wasn't being told what to do. My grandparents were very strict, and here I had this chance to explore and find out who I really connected with. Meeting Alice was a special experience. It was a feeling in my gut, a strong instinct that told me I had to stick with her. After finishing the short film for school, I thanked them and moved on. Funny how things turned out, but I randomly ran into Dorian on the street later and asked him about Alice. He told me the sad story of their breakup and how Alice had to give up her studies at the Fine Arts University to focus on taking care of the family. This news coincided with needing another documentary project for my next school year. Slowly, the idea of making a feature film about their messy but captivating life together started to form.

DK: So, how much footage did you end up with after ten years?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 03_Alice_Poster_2024_04_09_web_EN.jpg

IT: Not so much – around 70 hours.

DK: And did the story come together in the editing room then?

IT: Exactly. A big turning point came when my short film about Alice won a National Film Academy Award. Irina (Malcea, Luna Film) is a member of the Academy, saw the film, and someone connected us. It was a lucky break because at 23, I wasn't prepared to approach producers on my own.

DK: How much did these ten years of involvement influence your own life and decisions? What kind of mark did that involvement leave on you?

IT: A lot. I think the biggest thing that happened to me during this process was that it helped me understand why I was acting the way I was. I mean, why I just wasn't myself. For a long time, I was very very upset with how my parents and grandparents treated me. Of course, therapy is an option, but this was my process, through Alice, through our developing relationship. She wasn't very forthcoming about her past. Letting her tell her story helped me understand my own. That's why I agreed to share a bit of my personal journey in the film. Training my patience was a challenge for me as well. Throughout this process, I was constantly honing my patience while surrounded by colleagues who were actively working on various projects and films.

DK: You made the brave decision to become part of the film.

IT: Yes, but that decision came later, I guess. It was made in the editing room, because that's when a lot of things became clear. Over these ten years, I think the awakening moment, the moment I truly understood what the film was about, came during editing.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is marineci_IrinaMalceaIsabelaVonTent-243-2-1-1024x683.jpg

DK: How did the producer, Irina Malcea, help you get to that point?

IT: Irina fulfilled many roles for me. She was a mentor, a sister, and a very caring and loving friend.

DK: Did you ever feel like putting the camera down?

IT: No, I never felt like quitting. However, I was always very careful about how I filmed them. We have a lot of raw footage that's more aggressive, or grounded in reality, but I didn't include it because I didn't think it was essential.

DK: How about the scene where Aristo shuts his ears while they're fighting?

IT:  When I went home afterwards, I questioned myself a lot. Why didn't I put the camera down? Why didn't I call the police? The answer is, I think I was more scared than he was. For him, this was a kind of reality, and somehow, he knew how to cope with it. If I'd stopped filming, I would have chosen not to show a very important part of this child's life. Even though it's difficult to watch, and many people will criticize me for continuing to film, I'm more than happy to answer their questions and explain that I couldn't ignore this significant aspect of Aristo's life.

DK: How much responsibility do you feel towards Aristo in general? You've followed him from birth until now, when he's a young boy aged 11.

IT: I actually feel a lot of responsibility. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I've heard many opinions on how to act or behave with your characters after filming is complete. But I choose to behave like a human. It's important to me to be part of his development, as much as he allows me to be, especially now that Dorian has just been diagnosed with cancer. We found out two weeks ago [April 2024]. So now I'm quite involved in what's happening with Aristo.

DK: That is very sad to hear. So what's happening with Aristo now?

IT: He's actually doing okay. He's continuing his martial-arts training, which has helped him develop a lot. He's changed a lot. He's a teenager, of course, a young teenager just starting his journey through those rough teenage years, but he's changed significantly. He looks healthier and more energetic. This sport has really helped him. I connected him with his trainer and helped him start training. It's been very beneficial for him. That's one way I'm helping him. Also, after his mother disappeared, I never stopped searching for her. We searched for her a lot.

DK: What other ethical challenges did you have to overcome? How did you manage to balance being an artist with making your film?

IT: It wasn't an easy journey to overcome the ethical questions. But most of the time, when I faced ethical dilemmas, I tried to imagine how I would feel if I were the character being filmed. I did this a lot and asked myself, 'Would I be comfortable with this?' We participated in many workshops where I shared my thoughts and fears with others, especially at Ex-Oriente and the Doku-Rough Cut Boutique. Those discussions helped us solidify the understanding that respecting the characters was the right approach. The rule, I think, was always to respect your character – respect Alice as a friend, respect her as a woman, and keep that in mind at all times.

DK: Would you say that your protagonists also learned something through this process?

IT: I want to believe that, after seeing the film, something changed within Alice. It was an hour and a half of roller-coaster emotions because it was the first time they were together in the same room, watching their lives unfold. I saw a shift in her, a sense that change might be coming. I don't know if it will happen in two months or three, but for the first time, she said to me, 'Thank you.' Just hearing her say 'Thank you' – it was very deep and heartfelt. She looked me in the eyes and said it, and that was very emotional for me.

DK: In general, Alice was very self-reflective in the film. I was very impressed by that. Do you think that's just how she is, or was it the filming process and your questions that brought that out?

IT: I think it was a combination of both her personality and her needs. The documentary process, the filming itself, became a way for her to be heard. She felt trapped in a family dynamic where she was solely responsible for providing – for the child, for Dorian – and her own needs were left behind. Talking to me, and having most of our conversations focus on her, I believe, created a balance that allowed her to be heard and to talk about herself.

DK: So, how would you describe Alice now that the film is finished? Now that you have some distance and perspective.

IT: I think Alice is an unloved girl, an unloved child trapped in a young woman's life. There's a lot of beauty within her that often goes unseen. She has a lot to offer. I saw the hope and the spark of joy within her. I truly wish that it will come back and that she will find the strength to overcome this very dark period in her life. She's vulnerable, but at the same time, she's powerful. Somehow, through her craziness and her courage to express her feelings authentically, she's grown. I saw the light in her paintings, a place where she felt safe. I saw the light when she played with her son.

DK: Can you reflect on the film's logline: 'How can you be loved if nobody has taught you how?'

IT:  It just emerged instantly. Mirroring myself through Alice's story, when I asked myself what I was missing in my personal development and what Alice was missing, the word 'love' came to mind.

DK: You refer to Dorian as an anti-hero.

IT: I appreciate him a lot for what he did for the child and how he helped Alice. When they met, she was in a very dark place, full of drugs and alcohol. He gave her hope. He had the emotional space to listen to her and encourage her to find a better path. He also gave her the space she needed to do that. But at some point, his darker side emerged – perhaps selfishness. He can be selfish when he wants to be, when his own interests take priority over their common ground. Interestingly, he was very aware of the camera.

DK: In what sense?

IT: In terms of his behavior. For example, remember the scenes where they were fighting? He was very quiet, uncharacteristically silent. I think, because he knew I was there, he put some limits on himself to avoid looking bad. During workshops, many people felt that Dorian wasn't all right, that he didn't always make good choices. On the other hand, you can't entirely blame him. We have beautiful footage of him caring for the child and taking care of Alice when she was younger. And after she left, he continued to care for the child. It's difficult to solely blame him for not always being honest.

DK: Where is Alice today? What's she doing?

IT: She has a new boyfriend, and from what I understand, he also struggles with drug addiction. She still visits her son often. I was surprised to see her at Dorian's place when I went to show them the film. She doesn't have a phone or internet access now, so I had no idea she would be there. I found her to be in a much better state than the last time I saw her, which was after an overdose. She was in a very bad shape then.

DK: Do you think there's a chance she can be saved or escape this path?

IT: She can escape it if she wants to. I can try to help her in a million different ways, but if she doesn't want, she won't be saved. 

DK: What emotions do you hope the audience experiences when they watch your film?

IT: I want them to question themselves. I've learned that uncomfortable feelings can reveal a very beautiful truth.

DK: Thank you, Isabela. It was a pleasure. I feel like I know you a bit better now. 

IT: Thank you for giving me this opportunity.



Isabela Von Tent, Director, DoP

Isabela's filmmaking journey began after she studied film directing and journalism.  She initially served as an assistant director on both national and international productions, collaborating with renowned Romanian filmmakers like Radu Jude and Tudor Giurgiu. These experiences provided invaluable training, but it was Isabela's unique perspective on reality and her passion for storytelling that drew her to documentary filmmaking.

Her debut in this genre, a short documentary, garnered the prestigious Romanian National Film Award. Driven by a desire to explore non-classical approaches to documentary storytelling, Isabela embarked on her first feature film. Shot over a span of ten years, this ambitious project led Isabela to participate in influential international training programs like Docu Rough Cut Boutique, ExOriente, and ZagrebDox Pro.


All the Names that Start with C (2016), 14 min

short fiction

  • Festivals: Anonimul IFF, Romania 2016; STIFF Student International Film Festival, Croatia 2016

Chat with Alice (2015)

short documentary, 20 min

  • Cinemaiubit ISFF 2015 Awards: Best Short Documentary
  • Gopo Awards 2016: Best Short Documentary Film
  • Visegrad Film Forum: Case Study
  • Alter-Native 24, Tg Mures: Official Selection
  • STIFF International Student Film Festival, Croatia: Official Selection
  • Toamna La Voronet International Film Festival: Special Mention
  • Astra Film, Sibiu, Romania, 2016: Official Selection
  • DocuArt Fest, Bucharest, Romania 2016: Official Selection

Alice (2014)

Short documentary, 7 min

  • Cinemaiubit ISFF 2014, Victor Iliu Prize for Best Director of Short Documentary Film
  • Premiile Gopo 2015: Nominated for Best Short Documentary Film