‘Cinema Is About Truth,’ Romanian Director Cristi Puiu Tells Ji.hlava Masterclass

'Cinema Is About Truth,' Romanian Director Cristi Puiu Says
Courtesy of Jan Hromadko

“Cinema is not about advertising or propaganda. Cinema is not about beauty or beautiful images. Cinema is about truth.”

So stated Romanian director Cristi Puiu, delivering a masterclass at the Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival.

A pioneer of the “Romanian New Wave” movement, Puiu won the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes for his film “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (2005). His films “Aurora” (2010) and “Sieranevada” (2016) also played at Cannes.

Philosophical and contemplative, Puiu spoke out against filmmakers who “push an agenda” with “propaganda films.”

“The problem with propaganda films is that you are betraying yourself first as a human,” he cautioned. “If you are genuinely curious to find out who you are, you are going to leave this propaganda field.”

Truth, he added, is not something that filmmakers can articulate and reach – rather it is “like a destination for eternity.” He also explained that truth is difficult to achieve in film because all filmmakers are bombarded with information coming from outside their head that threatens to disrupt their vision.

Puiu said it bothered him that so many filmmakers are pushing lies, and that it was “very easy to contaminate the brains of others” with ideologies which stop people from seeing the world as it really is.

“The world is living through really dangerous times. Those who lived through communist times, like in the Czech Republic or Romania or elsewhere, they know what I am talking about. The consequences of propaganda is fear. And if you don’t stop this dangerous game, if you like to play with propaganda, you are going to be responsible for a long series of crimes.”

Puiu said filmmakers have to “put themselves and their heart on the table” when they make a film.

“You start asking yourselves serious questions about the world you live in. When you record these images and put together all the elements of your film, you are assuming a very serious responsibility.”

He also admitted that he treats each film he makes as if it might be his last to win funding so he doesn’t have to compromise his vision.

“Usually you are going to have to make a series of compromises to get a film to the end. But there are some limits to these compromises – and one of these limits is not to alter your vision or what you want to say. Because then you are just a traitor.”