Some say the Romanian New Wave has finished. Some say it’s transforming into something bigger and better, given the amount of international film festivals that are awarding local movies. Business Review challenged three film critics, Ionut Mares from Ziarul Metropolis, Cinemagia’s Stefan Dobroiu and Bogdan Besliu of the Comedy Cluj Film Festival, to wrap up 2017 and lift the curtain on 2018.
Silver screen surprises of 2017
Dobroiu of Cinemagia says that 2017 was a year without masterpieces, “but also one which shows that the Romanian cinema landscape is becoming more and more complex. Sometimes new, unfamiliar voices are even more interesting than great films from established directors: they are the fresh air, the future of Romanian cinema.” He added that the surprises came from the smaller number of documentaries. “It is hard to find documentaries as diverse as Radu Jude’s The Dead Nation, Andrei Dascalescu’s The Petrila Planet and Alexandru Solomon’s Tarzan’s Testicles. Somehow they are still very fresh in my mind at the end of the year, while the fiction features from 2017 just seem to mix together in a blur,” says Dobroiu.
2017 was a respectable year for Romanian cinema, says Mares of Ziarul Metropolis, “not brilliant but not to be dismissed. Even though it is almost unanimously acknowledged that there was no great Romanian film, we were represented at most of the major festivals (Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Sarajevo, Locarno, San Sebastian – but not Cannes, a first after many years) and won some awards. About 20 feature films (including some documentaries) were released in cinemas, around the average of the last few years. There were fewer spectators than in 2016, but that year was a high outlier. The most successful and ambitious films were Fixeur from Adrian Sitaru, The Last Day from Gabriel Achim, and 6.9 on the Richter scale from Nae Caranfil, as well as the documentary Tarzan’s Testicles from Alexander Solomon. A surprise – the relatively large number of debuts: seven.”
Besliu, the artistic director of Comedy Cluj, also cited the documentaries as the surprise of 2017. “A few really good documentaries, a handful of, as usual, great short films and feature films released both in international festivals and cinema halls. For me, the cinematic surprise was Marita, the heavily character-focused debut feature from Cristi Iftime,” notes Besliu.
Fresh faces of 2017
Dobroiu nominated Daniel Sandu. “He may not be that fresh, after a string of successful short films, but Daniel Sandu made a splash with his first feature, One Step Behind the Seraphim. It is far from perfect, but it is a promising example of intelligent mainstream cinema, the kind of project that could convince both critics and the audience. In terms of fresh acting talent, I would nominate Voica Oltean, the young protagonist of Iulia Rugina’s Breaking News.”
Mares mentions two young directors: Cristi Iftime (Marita) and Daniel Sandu (One Step Behind the Seraphim). “Alexandra Balteanu, a young director from Romania established in Berlin, and the author of a school-based film Hunting, shot in the suburbs of Bucharest and shown in the country only in three festivals. Octav Chelaru is a very young filmmaker who has previously directed three short films (the most recent, Black Clothes, was shown in Locarno in 2017) and I bet he will soon become a big name in Romanian cinema. There are some discoveries among the very young actors: Diana Spatarescu (Fixeur), Voica Oltean (Breaking News), Ana Radu (Meda or the Not Too Happy Part of Things), and Stefan Iancu (One Step Behind the Seraphim).”
Sandu received another nod from Besliu. “There are many new faces on and behind the screen and that is a very good thing. Daniel Sandu’s One Step Behind the Seraphim put the spotlight on a lot of young talents that, although they weren’t making their debuts, had a lot more polish. Then there’s the very young Voica Oltean (Breaking News, directed by Iulia Rugina) who I’m sure will appear more and more on Romanian big screens. From behind the camera, Cristi Iftime is on my directors-to-follow list.”
Coming soon to a cinema near you
Dobroiu finds 2018 extremely promising: a record number of first features are expected, many of them from female directors. “From these films I would recommend Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not, the first Romanian feature directed by a woman to be selected in the official competition of the Berlinale, and Ioana Uricaru’s Lemonade, as I expect it to be a sharp Romanian commentary on the dangers of the famous American Dream. I would also mention Constantin Popescu’s accomplished thriller Pororoca, which is already in cinemas.”
Mares points out that 2018 has begun with the release of two important, solid films, which had their world premiere in San Sebastian last year: Pororoca from Constatin Popescu, and Soldiers. A Story from Ferentari, an explosive debut by Ivana Mladenovic. Two other directors will have movies at Berlin: Adina Pintilie will debut with Touch Me Not, in the Main Competition, and Corneliu Porumboiu will present a new documentary, Infinite Football, in the Forum section. Among other films expected in 2018: Charleston, from Andrei Cretulescu, Radu Muntean’s Alice T, Love: Dog from Florin Serban, and It is Irrelevant if we come into History as Barbarians from Radu Jude, as well as Morometii 2 directed by the veteran Stere Gulea.”
Meanwhile, Besliu tips Ivana Mladenovic’s fictional feature film debut, Soldiers. A Story from Ferentari, due out in February, Andrei Cretulescu’s Charlestone, the sequel to Morometii (directed by Stere Gulea) and new films from Radu Jude, Tudor Giurgiu and Radu Muntean among the highlights of what promises to be an exciting year for local film buffs.