Romanian Cannes contender tackles personal rot of corruption

19th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Post-communist societies will not root out rampant corruption until their citizens stop the grubby compromises in their own lives, previous Cannes winner Cristian Mungiu of Romania told the festival Thursday.

His latest Cannes contender "Graduation", which drew a warm reception, tells the story of Romeo, a father in Transylvania who hopes his daughter Eliza can escape their troubled country with a scholarship to a British university.

Eliza is a star student but on the eve of her first school-leaving exam is assaulted in broad daylight.

Romeo, a doctor at a state hospital, fears the trauma will undermine her performance on the tests and tries to ensure a high score for her by swapping favours with the people marking them.

Meanwhile he is carrying on a secret affair with a woman who works at Eliza's school, a betrayal that his daughter uncovers and forces her father to reveal to his wife.

Mungiu, who won the Palme d'Or prize nine years ago for the wrenching 1980s abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", represents the Romanian New Wave conquering art houses around the world.

His 2012 movie "Beyond the Hills", set in an Orthodox convent, won both best screenplay and best actress prizes for its two stars.

Mungiu said many people in Romania felt the deck had been stacked against them since communism gave way to sleaze-wracked capitalism.

"We speak a lot about corruption in Romania but I never wanted to make a film about the social corruption that we see, this is for the press, the press speaks everyday about corruption," he said.

"What I wanted to do is to have some questions about a possible relationship between the social corruption and moral compromises that you get used to do in your own life and without even noticing."

Mungiu said the issue took on a new dimension for him when he had his own children.

"I'm talking about my generation. It's one of the most important issues that we can have as parents at this age, deciding exactly what to say to your child, what your moral line is with your children," he told reporters.

"If you live in Romania...you have to decide -- and I think it's the most important choice -- what you must do for your children, what you do with your children. Advising them to stay or leave."

The director said an honest reckoning with the past was also crucial.

"If you really want your children to have a good education, you must have the courage to look at yourself in the mirror and say 'hey, I've made wrong choices in my life' and that's something I have to survive and talk to my children about," he said.

"Graduation" is one of two Romanian films out of 21 pictures gunning for the Palme d'Or on Sunday, after director Cristi Puiu's highly-rated "Sieranevada".


© 2016 AFP

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