Romanians Aim High at CentEast

By Toma Peiu
    In 2005, when Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu won the Un Certain Regard prize in Cannes, it was the biggest award a Romanian film had received on the Croisette since 1963.

    In two years' time, Romanian movies would bring home another Un Certain Regard trophy (California Dreamin'), a Camera D'Or (12:08 East of Bucharest), a Best Actress in a Leading Role award in the Un Certain Regard section (The Way I Spent the End of The World), and a FIPRESCI Prize and a Palme D'Or (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), not to mention dozens of other awards at festivals around the world.

    Although Radu Muntean's Boogie was selected in the 40th Critics' Week, in 2008 there was no other Romanian feature with any impact at all on the international film festival circuit. Yet, special programmes dedicated to Romanian film were running all over the world, so critics might have wondered: is the New Romanian Cinema already to be seen only in retrospectives?

    The line-up of this year's CentEast Market of the Warsaw Film Festival shows that the Romanian New Wave is not dead at all. In fact there might be some fine surprises in store for next year: Sinisa Dragin's The Seed Doesn't Die (a Serb-Romanian co-production); Radu Jude's The Happiest Girl in the World (a Romanian-Dutch co-production); Wedding in Bassarabia by Napoleon Helmis (co-produced by a Moldova-based company); Horatiu Malaele's Silent Wedding; and English first-time director Peter Strickland's Katalin Varga (a Hungarian- Romanian co-production).

    "It's remarkable that three out of the five projects are co-productions with neighbouring countries. They should have started a long time ago, but still I think that the most successful of them at film festivals will be Radu Jude's The Happiest Girl In The World," says Romanian film critic Mihai Fulger, a member of the FIPRESCI Jury at the WFF. Fulger entertains high hopes from Jude's first feature. "I think it's one of the most important debuts in the history of post-communist Romanian cinema," he says. The critic also speaks highly of other projects presented at the Warsaw film market. "Silent Wedding still holds a chance of making it to the Berlinale, while Katalin Varga probably won't travel to A-series festivals, but it should still do well in places like Rotterdam," Fulgar predicts. Warsaw may prove a new start for what Cannes Delegate General Thierry Fremaux used to call "the most fashionable film industry in Europe nowadays."