13th Transilvania International Film Festival

Romania, May 30 - June 8 2014

The jury

Sheila Johnston (UK), Oleksii Pershko (Ukraine), Catalin Olaru (Romania)

Awarded films

Now in its 13th year, the Transilvania International Film Festival Cluj-Napoca — TIFF for short — ran from 30 May to 8 June: ten packed and lively days of screenings, workshops, panel discussions and seminars, concerts and — with the aid of an impressive line-up of sponsors including HBO, Silva (the local beer) and Raiffeisen Bank — its legendary parties.

Romania’s second largest city, Cluj hosts a suite of festivals all year round and is currently vying for the crown of European City of Culture in 2021. One reason for its vibrant arts and social scene is the very large, multi-lingual university of 20,000 students. Throughout the week its final year graduates could be seen parading through the streets with bouquets and diplomas for their own valedictory ceremonies. School was out, and there was a palpable sense of celebration in the air.

TIFF courted this bright young audience with a very wide-ranging programme of over 200 films, bookended by Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. In between were — among other things — spotlights on Ireland, the Czech Republic and the Young German Cinema, a documentary section, mini-tributes to Nicolas Philibert, Iulian Mihu and Peter Solan, a substantial programme devoted to the current Romanian cinema and several special events such as a screening of FW Murnau’s Faust with live accompaniment.

Tudor Giurgiu, the Festival President, says TIFF is no longer trying to play the Dracula card, though this didn’t stop Vlad the Impaler, sporting 3D specs, from starring on the festival posters. And fans of horror, fantasy, bizarre and cult cinema were handsomely catered for in three sections, No Limit, Shadows (a strand of short films) and Midnight Delirium. Open-air screenings were well attended despite cold, rainy weather at the start of the week, with blankets thoughtfully provided by the festival and plum brandy on hand for additional internal central heating.

It is TIFF’s policy to avoid soulless shopping mall multiplexes, and the festival screenings were held in a wide range of venues, from a cinema tucked away in the middle of a working class housing estate on the edge of town to a magnificent private screening room in the city’s military headquarters and a Lutheran church.

This year’s TIFF also launched a ‘Save the Big Screen’ campaign to revive Romania’s fast-disappearing cinemas (there are, according to Giurgiu, just 30 independent movie theatres in the entire country, as against 630 in 1989). Part of this is a crowd-funding campaign to restore the city’s extraordinary, derelict film archive as a cinema and community centre.

The FIPRESCI jury was assigned to a thematic strand called Eye for an Eye, consisting of a dozen films on the subject of revenge. One might have expected bloody vigilante thrillers to dominate (and these were by no means absent), but the overall programme proved, in fact, extremely diverse in setting, subject and register. More about it in a separate report. While there were several strong contenders, the FIPRESCI prize went to Calvary, John Michael McDonagh’s black, metaphysical comedy. The winner in the main competition was the Spanish psychological drama Stockholm, while Debra Winger, Krzysztof Zanussi and Florin Zamfirescu received the festival’s honorary awards. (Sheila Johnson)

Transilvania International Film Festival: www.tiff.ro/en