CLUJ, ROMANIA–More than a decade after a tide of critically acclaimed and award-winning features announced the arrival of the Romanian New Wave, the Transilvania Film Festival’s annual Romanian Days program continues to offer a vital and wide-ranging survey of the country’s dynamic film industry.
This year’s edition, which kicks off June 6, will present 15 features and 22 short films over the course of three days in Cluj, presenting what TIFF artistic director Mihai Chirilov calls “a recap of the best in Romanian cinema.”
A highlight this year will be the Romanian premiere of “The Whistlers,” which arrives in Cluj on the heels of its world premiere in Cannes Critics’ Week. Corneliu Poromboiu’s latest feature is a noir-inspired crime thriller about a Romanian police inspector who gets entangled in a high-stakes heist that takes him to the Spanish island of La Gomera. Chirilov describes it as “a genre film, but with an auteur twist.”
“I think [Porumboiu] is the only filmmaker out of the New Wave that’s always surprising,” he says. “He didn’t get stuck in the New Wave; every time he challenges himself, taking different paths. Even when he was not that successful, he was admirable, because he was trying to make something completely different.”
Berlin Silver Bear winner Radu Jude (“Aferim!”) returns to Transilvania with “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,” which Variety described as “a blistering, acutely topical, meta-fictional attack on Romanian Holocaust denial and historical myopia.” The movie was awarded the Crystal Glove for best film at Karlovy Vary last year. Veteran helmer Radu Muntean’s latest feature, “Alice T.,” follows the turbulent relationship between a young woman and her adoptive mother, which grows complicated by an unexpected pregnancy. Andra Guti won best actress honors in Locarno for the titular role.
Shining a spotlight on emerging directors as much as established auteurs, Romanian Days this year includes a number of provocative titles from first- and second-feature directors.
“Mo,” the feature directorial debut of Radu Dragomir, tells the story of two students who are caught cheating on an exam and end up in the bedroom of their professor. Chirilov describes the “brave” film as “one of the most provocative Romanian films” of recent years. He adds, “I really couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Andrei Cohn’s (“Back Home”) second feature, “Arrest,” is set inside the jail cell of an architect who is arrested during the reign of strongman Nicolae Ceausescu and forced to share his cell with a collaborator for the secret police. “It’s quite an achievement, and a rare film,” says Chirilov, who calls it “something you haven’t quite seen in Romanian cinema.”
While curating Romanian Days this year, organizers had to choose from more than 40 feature-length films and documentaries – more than double the previous year – as well as nearly 150 shorts. Responding to the uptick in submissions, Chirilov says the festival is mooting the possibility of adding a fourth day to the program next year.
It’s yet another sign of the growth and evolution of the Romanian industry, which has expanded in recent years to produce more films not working within the traditional parameters of the New Wave. “There are more and more directors going genre,” says director and TIFF founder Tudor Giurgiu, whose latest film, “Parking,” opened the festival. “In the last few years, there were three or four popular comedies financed totally independently, guerrilla style, done on a very small budget. But they’re doing well at the box office, they’ve recouped some money, they’ve sold to Netflix.”
He added: “It’s a good sign that Romanian cinema became closer to the Romanian public, and I think that’s a good sign for the future.”