I had the distinct pleasure to be invited during Cannes this year to the Festival. I had heard about it for some time so it was a pleasure to go to a festival and country I’d never been to, a real adventure.
I loved it. I found the young Romanians running and attending the event to be really wonderful. Their country has had a very long and colorful history. Invasions, wars and different cultures coming across the land, set up ruling governments. In fact the surprise to me was that so many of them do not even personally recall Soviet times so that period of their parents’ lives to them is just ‘another phase’ of their country’s varied history
Let’s get this out of the way.
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab, also known by his patronymic name: Dracula. He was posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler. Vlad III spent much of his rule campaigning against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion. As the cognomen 'The Impaler' suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies is central to his historical reputation. During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands.
The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad's patronymic. Stoker is said to have stayed one night over 100 years ago in Cluj at its then famous, still standing, New York Hotel.
As one of the young Festival workers said to me, ‘Who cares about him? In those old days everybody impaled everyone else so who cares today?’ Case closed.
The Festival and the Town
The Festival is a large, well attended international film event and is obviously growing. It is well funded by sponsors and is held in other Romanian cities as well. I liked the lineup and the events and nightly parties. The youth in Romania today are more interested in film, the internet and music partying than in the past. In other words they are like youth everywhere today and very much into their careers and thinking about travel to the US, Germany, France and the UK. I found this familiar and refreshing.
One evening fest goers were bused out to a nearby castle and Melies’ magical silent films were projected onto the walls with an avant garde music group performing same time.
Our New York City friend and one of the great US producers Christine Vachon attended the Fest to give Master Class in filmmaking. There was also a retrospective of and lectures on all of the films of the great Stanley Kubrick.
Cluj is a center today of internet type startups and is the 2nd city of Romania (after Bucharest) in population. Universities keep the average age quite young.
It is an international fest with some of the most interesting new films. Sales agents rep most of the titles, the companies including Wide, The Match Factory, Fortissimo, Bavaria, Doc & Film and even Paramount (in the case of Scorcese’s ‘Hugo’).
I watched only Romanian films in my days at this event and came away impressed. See any of these if you can.
Here are some titles I saw –
A Romanian short I saw was not even in the Fest but it was by far the best film I saw there. A couple of strangers meet in a café for a casual discussion which upends the man’s life dramatically. A quiet, compelling piece rich with ideas and so well acted. Bravo!!
A modern city man wakes up and begins a day from hell as he tries to deliver his child’s bicycle gift. He does not get along with his ex and ends up in an escalating fight finally tying her up, trying to avoid being arrested and ends up falling out of a window. Black comedy.
Open on a guy in his apartment. Fights with girlfriend. Goes to hospital to see his mom. Modern life in a low key vein.
A middle aged woman’s day. She calls her son and they chat. Walking with her suitcase she meets friend and they plan a house party, women getting together. Much gossip. They leave, son comes in and she is mad with him. He listens to his modern rock music.
Noir Short – Animation and footage
This one was way over the top. Very strange couple have dinner. His voice over is the only soundtrack. Their life is plainly boring but he has violent desires fantasies to murder her. They go on a fantasy car trip and have a sex break with much acting out. In a frenzy he murders her. Very strange piece, interesting.
Dark coming of age piece. An older man whose mind and ways are stuck in the past takes his son for first driving lessons. He is surprised to learn this strange boy of his already knows how to drive. He takes him to a prostitute who gives them a hard time and then the boy confesses to being gay. The man does not know what to make of this. On the street outside some thugs accost them and the man gets beaten for provoking them. A very interesting, modern film.
A pretty, modern looking troubled girl meets her parents in the snow covered winter streets to help her with broken car. She talks with her mother and at last confesses to being pregnant. Deep shock as they confront this fundamental but troubling problem as a family. Nicely done.
Elaborately filmed piece with a restless never not moving camera. Group of boys talk and talk and finally plan a road trip in a car layered with ‘Hello Kitty’ decals. Various conflicts rise and fall. They end up at the beach and horsing around after dark go into the water. One doesn’t return and it becomes obvious he has drowned. The film ends with them sitting around in shock at the tragedy. Well done.