You hear that? It’s the faint sound of a bunch of Romanian filmmakers stampeding towards North America for what is becoming it’s best year ever, in terms of stateside exposure. It’s not a big secret that there’s a new wave of Romanian filmmakers producing important and impressive feature films right now, and it’s hitting the world cinema scene like Mexico did last year. On the horizon, we’ll see the North American release of this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner (Christian Mingiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days), likely followed soon by this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard winner (Cristian Nemescu’s California Dreamin’). Both hail from Romania, and follow in a recent surge that began in earnest last year with the release of Crisi Puiu’s massively acclaimed The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and continued a few months ago with the American release of Corneliu Porumbolu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest.
What got me thinking about all these films this weekend, was sitting down and finally watching Catalin Mitulescu’s The Way I Spent the End of the World, a 2006 Romanian coming-of-age story that is the July selection for DVD-of-the-month club Film Movement. A festival darling (it played Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, etc.) this is the first chance most Americans will be able to watch the lauded film. I recommend checking it out. While it may not be as strong as some of the aforementioned films, it’s still touching and smart.
It also got me thinking about one very important issue within most of these new Romanian sensations: what happens when some of these filmmakers start to tell stories that have nothing to do with Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist regime? Stories surrounding this oppressive chapter in Romania’s modern history, have yielded some of the new movement’s most acclaimed and accessible work. What happens when the same artists tell stories that distance themselves from the plight of Cold War domestic conflict? It appears, perhaps, that new and upcoming Romanian films will always have an undercurrent of social commentary, even if they aren’t about Ceausescu’s reign specifically. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu may hold the key: for it, the healthcare system is the political target. Which, if you live in America right now, is definitely a universal issue.
Get warmed up with the Romanian titles available on DVD now, because this wave has a new crest headed in our direction.