KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — In 2010, Romanian helmer-writer Florin Serban nabbed several prizes at the Berlinale with his impressive feature debut “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle.” After training the non-pro youths who play the juvenile delinquents in that film, he decided to open an acting school in Bucharest. One of the graduates of his school, 19-year-old Rafael Florea, takes the lead in his latest, “Box,” which world premiered in competition at Karlovy Vary Film Festival this week. Shot on 35mm, the drama follows the budding relationship between an ambitious gypsy teen, who is starting on the boxing circuit, and an older, married actress.

Serban says, “I started The Acting School four years ago. It is a personal project, very dear to me. It is partially funded through tuition from people that can afford to pay it, and by me, for people that couldn’t afford tuition but have something ‘going on,’ like Rafael. People from various backgrounds attend classes, spanning from ex-cons to established actors in the same class. So, it is not only for people that didn’t study acting in an institute, but for people who want to study film acting in a different way. More direct, more visceral, very intuitive, without so much ‘compromise’ and ‘protection.’ They learn from me and from each other.”

Serban stresses, “At this very moment, Rafael Florea is more prepared as a film actor than any other Romanian actor of his age. I am not saying that my Acting School is better than anything else out there. I am saying that Rafael, with his personal history, his intuition and his guts, plus the education he got here, is better than any actor of his age I saw. This is one reason why I don’t really believe in this amateur/professional actors distinction.”

He elaborates, “Mixing actors that studied in an academic environment with people that studied in my school and people who didn’t study acting at all was not programmed. I have stories to tell and I try to find the best way to tell that particular story… I try to work with people that strike me as faces, and [have] ways of acting regardless of their educational or personal background.”