De Moss pictures and BSL Films join forces for a new project.
This is the story of a little girl named Maria, who comes from a good family in the newly formed "high society" of post-Communist Romania. Due to a failed kidnap plan she gets lost in the underground sewers of Bucharest, meeting the unofficial society of homeless children living in those scary places. Based on fact, the plot is influenced by the many stories about the black market in human trafficking.
The story follows the actual and psychological journey of Maria, from the cruel reality of her fate, to the fantastic world created by her imagination, as a child in despair. At the same time, the film delivers a social message about the state of abandoned children in our society. It is somehow similar in style to films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Guillermo del Torro, and “The City of Lost Children”, by Marc Caro and Jean Pierre Jeunet, with psychological elements similar to “The Cell” by Tarsem Singh, but much realistic and darker.
In the same night her parents die in a car crash, Maria follows a little dog out into the underground world of the homeless children of Bucharest.
One night, when her parents left her home alone, the 7 years old Maria and her favorite doll are drawn to the underground of the city by the diabolical plan of Mr. Bocu.
Mr. Bocu is a small time crook, an ex-magician who ekes out a living as a gardener by day and a clown by night in the local amusement park. An ex-convict with a dark past, he is driven to desperation by his miserable existence and the bad influence of his concubine, Mrs. Gina. Mr. Bocu’s plan for escaping poverty is to kidnap the little girl and ask her wealthy parents for ransom.
During the last years, Mr. Bocu has developed an entire underground system in which the homeless kids wash car window screens or beg for money and he provides them with shelter and the daily meals that keep them alive, promising them a better future while exploiting them.
Although his plan works, as Sparky the dog and Ionut, a 6 years old little orphan boy, the two most innocent creatures he controls help, everything turns against him once he finds out that the night the parents left her home alone, they were involved in a tragic car accident. The father was killed on spot, the mother ended up in intensive care, only to die three days later: Mr. Bocu is left with nobody to pay the ransom.
Through the eyes of Maria, we now enter the underground society of the street kids, with their fantastic stories of survival. Although a miserable existence, the world becomes fascinating in the eyes of the kids. Their stories conclude in fantastic tales, which somehow all act like metaphors to the real world we are living in.
Unfortunately things turn bad when Bocu finds out about the accident. Desperate and running out of ideas, he locks the little girl up in the potato shack, leaving her to face hunger and the fear of dark. After two days when accidentally she learns about her parents’ death from a news paper laying around, she realizes there is no way out for her, so she decides to take fate in her own hands, and escapes from the potato shack where she’s been kept. She finds an old trap door under the pile of potatoes that takes her into the city’s sewers. Thinking that this is the path to freedom, she sets on her journey for finally discovering what pure parental love is really about.
As she journeys down the drain, she goes through hell and finally drowns. Once dead she ends up in a fantastic world shaped beautiful and weird in the same time all made up by her vivid childish imagination. This parallel dimension she arrives in, is based on her imagination interpreting the fairy tales she knows from the fairytales books she’s been read and the stories of the characters she meets through her journey.
In the real world, another story continues in parallel with Maria’s disappearance. Since both her father and mother were themselves orphans, the closest family she has are Ana and George, a newlywed couple who are expecting a baby. When the couple learns that Maria is missing, they get the police involved. Thus we meet another main character: Inspector Martan, the policeman trying to solve this puzzle.
Martan is a strange character with a complicated life story. Although an excellent inspector, he’s an alcoholic and an unconventional character whose job is his only fixation in life.
Martan eventually finds Bocu, only to realize that he’s too late - little Maria has already freed herself, and lost herself in the underground sewers.
Back at the main plot, Maria ends up meeting her mother and father in Paradise, after she travels into the other dimensions, where she faces her fears into the world of the Rat King and his armies, she satisfies her hunger from Ionut’s tale of the Three of Sandwiches, and finally learns what real love means by bringing together the souls of Ionut and his mother who meet in Heaven after Ionut dies defending Maria.
In the closing scene of the film, Martan finds Maria at the edge of the city, where the water from the sewers turns into mud. She looks dead. Through his eyes the audience takes the journey of an adult looking out to give his parental love to a child, just as through Maria’s eyes we take the journey of an innocent child finally looking for parental love, that mysteriously she finds into a stranger. As Martan finds the girl in the mud he gives her power and she comes back to life, enabling them both to meet their destiny - Martan now has the child he always wanted, and Maria has someone to raise her.
This film is a metaphor for the missing, abandoned, street children. For the end quote we end the film reading on black screen:
“In 2006 alone, 26,000 children were abandoned and/or institutionalized in Romania. Half of them end up on the streets, with probably fewer than that half surviving the first winter or other accidents till next year. This fact should concern not only Romania, but the entire world as well.
In October 2007 in Bucharest, a 12-year-old boy committed suicide because his mother had to go to work in Italy. The child left a note to his mother before he died: Take care Mom’ Out there is an evil world!”
As mentioned above, the film is in the genre of "Pan's Labyrinth” and “The City of Lost Children”, a fairy tale with a dramatic ending, which is meant for an adult audience.
The screenplay was originally written in Romanian, and has been translated into English.
For the world which ilustrate Maria’s imagination and the Paradise, the film will feature several CGI sequences that will be particularly original and fascinating benefiting from the originality of the Byzantine - Eastern European symbolist style.
Considering the recent success of Romanian cinema in international festivals, we believe that this story, as seen through the eyes of little Maria, will be an additional important contribution to the International film industry.
Script: Final Draft Romanian / English Translation
Budget 2mil Euro, Schedule: 6 week shoot
10.10.2018 Director / Producer