World cinema spotlight falls on Romanian film revolution

10th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The boom has caught the attention of the international film industry.

Berlin -- Sometimes it seems that nations emerge from nowhere on the global cinema stage. So is the case with Romania.

The harsh rule of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu may have come to an end about 18 years ago amid the popular uprisings against communism that swept across Eastern Europe.

But it has been less than a year following the success of Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days that the Romania's movie revolution has caught the attention of the world film business.

"I never in my life thought I would be giving interviews to so many international media organizations," said Mihai Gligor from Romanian Film Promotion, which this year managed to secure for the first time a coveted spot at the Berlin Film Festival's movie market, the European Film Market.

"It has been a very good year," said Gligor after Mungui's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (4 Luni, 3 Saptamini Si 2 Zile) won the prestigious Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May and which has since then won distribution rights around the world.

Speaking in the gracious surroundings of one of Berlin's leading museums, the Martin Gropius Bau where the European Film Market is housed, Gligor said the new wave of film directors that had recently emerged from Romania had "proven they have something to say."

Many, he said had started out by first winning praise and awards at the world's leading international film festivals including the Berlin Film Festival before building up to making feature films.

And the cycle appears to be clicking over again with two shorts from two young Bucharest-born film directors having been selected for this year's Berlinale.

This includes Bogdan Mustaja's A Good Day for a Swim (O Zi Buna de Plaja) about three young offenders who break out of prison and Paul Negoescu's Late (Tarzu) about a journalist assigned to cover a sexual misconduct case at his old school.

Anamaria Marinca, who starred in 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, has also been selected as shooting star for this year's Berlinale.

But success for Romania's new batch of enthusiastic and ambitious young directors has brought its complications and pressures.

"Everybody locally and internationally is now waiting for the new Romanian films," said Gligor.

The directors "know that everyone is watching them. The question is whether they can help keep the momentum going," he said.

But then for filmmakers across Central and Eastern Europe, the last 18 years following the implosion of communism have been a sobering and at times dispiriting experience.

No sooner had the collapse of the Soviet Union dragged movie making throughout the region to the brink of the abyss than cinemas across the region began closing or were converted to sex clubs and discos as privatization began taking hold across the former communist states.

In many countries such as Romania, filmmakers attempting to arrange financing for their projects also had to battle corruption in the system that emerged from the collapse of communism.

The result was that eight years ago there were no films made in Romania. "It was zero hour," said Gligor.

Now, Romania's movie industry produces 10 or more films a year with changes in film industry laws, including improvements in movie financing across the region, helping to forge a new somewhat more stable structure for the industry.

This, combined with a successful drive by nations such as Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary to promote themselves as new locations for the world's leading film companies, has also helped to underpin the cinema's renaissance underway across Central Europe.

While many Romanian film directors have been delving into their nation's past including its often traumatic communist history, some filmmakers have been pursuing more universal themes such as the film Boogie by Radu Muntean.

To be released this year, Boogie tells the story of Bogdan (Boogie) who runs into an old school friend on a family holiday. But as the two men relive their youthful escapades it is clear the film's story could be told in almost any nation.

The Rest is Silence is Romania's biggest budget film to date. Directed by Nae Caranfil and also scheduled to be released next month, it is a period drama set against the backdrop of Romanian independence.

But despite Romanian directors' new-found international success, the investment in the nation's cinemas is still struggling to recover from the years following the fall of communism. In a country of 22 million people there are still only 58 screens.

As part of an effort to take film to the Romanian people, the organizers of the nation's key Transylvanian Film Festival, which opens on May 30, are planning to mount a tour of the country with movies from the festival showing them in theatres, concert halls and public squares.

DPA with Expatica

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