A Renaissance of Romanian Cinema? By Stratos Kersanidis

in 5th Cluj Transsilvania International Film Festival

by Stratos Kersanidis

“Cinema is dying in Romania”, my confrere Luminitsa Boerescu noted. I told her that there is the same situation in Greece, where only the multi-cinemas are now working.”In Romania, even the multi-cinemas are not working”, she answered, describing in a few words the bleak picture existing in the cinema of her country. This was reflected by the fact that in the festival program, there were only 4 films from Romania. Nevertheless, behind this low-budget production, directly connected to the difficult financial condition of the country, a new generation of Romanian cinema appears as a dynamic and promising one. Is it, therefore, coincidental that Cristi Puiu was acclaimed last year for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu? Is it a random incident that two of the four films produced this year in the country were selected and shown in the “Un certain regard” section at the Cannes Film Festival? Is it an accident that one of them won the Camera d’Or award there? Obviously not, and this notion exists everywhere, that is, that something is starting to move in Romanian cinema, a situation spotted by the director and member of the critics’ committee, Radu Mihaileanu. At a press-conference, he noted that there had been a difficult period which they now seemed to have overcome. He said characteristically that the important directors of the previous generation (Lucian Pintile, Sergiu Nicolascu, etc.) had not formed a continuity and this had resulted in a ‘dead’ period.

With the film 12:8 West of Bucharest, Corneliu Porumboiu won the Camera d’Or award in Cannes. With a humorous attitude, the director makes a film by placing his heroes in the process of answering the facts of December 1989 (Ceausescu’s fall). It all takes place in a television-studio, during a show, with Porumboiu creating an unbelievably funny film, which looks his comrades straight in the eye asking them the stern question. And even if the majority of the Romanian people believe that in 1989 there was, indeed, a revolution, the director seems to undermine this belief.

Catalin Mitulescu’s film The Way I Spent the End of the World, shows the everyday life of some children, and their families, a few months before and up to Ceausescu’s fall. A bitter-sweet nostalgic look, by which though – in contrast with Porumbiou – Mitulescu creates a politically weak film. Nevertheless, it is a well structured film, destined to touch the broad public in Romania.

Adrian Popovici’s Un acoperis deasupra capului tells the story of two women who have just been released from a mental hospital searching for a home and ending up in a village on the Danube delta. The film tackles a very important issue, that of accepting the foreign and the different in a non-tolerant society. Two exceptional performances by Mara Nicolarescu and Gabriela Butuc underpin the film, which satisfies without being uplifting.

Other good performances are delivered by Maria Popistaru and Ioana Barbu in Love Sick by Tudor Giurgiu. Furthermore, Giurgiu deals with a very bold issue, unfamiliar in the Romanian cinema, that of a love affair between two women, shaken by another love affair of the one woman with her own brother! The director approaches the story discretely making it an exceptionally interesting work that certainly presents the fact that apart from the recent history of the country, there are, also other issues occupying the minds of the young, dynamic generation of Romanian directors.