Fourth Night: CESN Romanian Cinema
This evening marked the final screening of the month-long festival, concluding with a taste of Romanian cinema. The reason for selecting Romania as the final country/ ‘national’ cinema was primarily due to the country’s impact on an international scale and festival valorization since (at least) 2005. For example, at the ‘A’ grade festival Cannes, Romanian films received prizes on a frequent basis in the different categories, such as the Prix un certain regard for California dreamin’ (Nemescu, 2007), the Caméra d’or prize for 12:08 East of Bucharest (Porumboiu, 2006), the Prix un certain regard for The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Puiu, 2005), and the Palme d’Or for 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (Mungiu, 2007).
The Romanian ‘New Wave’ films, to some extent, deal with the issues and state of society in Romanian post-1989. In essence, the films are largely concerned with the (re-) construction of national identity through an exploration of Romania’s recent traumatic past. It is through this pre-occupation with the recent past that helps to inform and comprehend the present situation in Romania, i.e. the shift from Communism to a Capitalist democracy. Presently, Romanian cinema appears to be a more auteur-driven cinema, drawing on international collaborations with France and Belgium to gain funding and also further valorization at international film festivals.
The process of curation for this final evening was particularly complex with many different feature length films not being available for festival screening. Child’s Pose (Calin Peter Netzer, 2013) was selected after lengthly consideration of films by auteurs that gained critical attention from the valorization of the ‘new wave’ moment in the 2000s. A winner of the Golden Bear at Berlinale in 2013 and an official selection for Romania at the Oscars, Child’s Pose wonderfully captures corruption in Romanian society post-Ceauçescu. A stimulating and highly engaging family drama that reveals the seedy underbelly of bureaucracy and society. In particular, the police – as a key representation of society, power and control – are viewed as the most corrupt in this setting. This clearly articulates the association of power with the elite and the wealthy. Symbols of capitalist excess permeate the screen with subtle references to the changes in society, such as the numerous shots with Coca-Cola bottles on the tables of the elite and the brands of their German-made cars.
Moreover, the film could also be read as Lévinasian and the face-to-face encounter. This notion, which has been drawn on in relation to the Dardenne brothers’ films, comes into play as Barbu (the son accused of manslaughter) and his mother meet the dead child’s parents. However, as opposed to a face-to-face encounter in which the mother and her son experience the pain and suffering of the Other, the film further critiques the elites and their desire for self-preservation. The ethics, in this context, are questioned heavily. In this instance Barbu’s mother (Cornelia) bemoans her relationship with her son and cries for the gradual breakdown of their relationship – as opposed to grieving and understanding the loss of the child.
In terms of the short film submissions to the week dedicated to Romania, 262 shorts were submitted: 31 from Romania and the rest were composed of submissions from the Romanian diaspora, particularly in the USA and Canada. To this end, the short film Shrines (Nona Catusanu-Popp, 2015) was selected. The film coheres with the latter part of this trend and it is truly international in terms of its makeup. For example, the filmmaker is a member of the Romanian diaspora, living in the USA, the funding was started with a small budget from FAMU film school in Prague, Czech Republic, and filming equipment was obtained from Latvia. The short film was poetic and lyrical in its tone and approach, which is particularly borne out by the use of voiceover. As the filmmaker previously noted on this website, the short was inspired by the poet James Tate. In discussions with the audience members, the short articulated the breakdown of a relationship or relationships, with a real ambiguity arising from whether they two characters were in a relationship or whether they were recounting past experiences. An extended interview with the filmmaker is included on this website.
All in all, the ‘Cinemas of Europe’s Small Nations’ film festival was a success, receiving modest audiences and critical interest. The event received high levels of short film submissions, which speaks to the high quality of emerging and novice filmmakers honing their craft in cinemas from small nations.
Thank you to all who submitted their films and/or attended the events!