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by Oana Sanziana Marian
November 28, 2012 1:15 PM
6 Comments
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Commentary: Romanian Cinema Is In Grave Danger -- And Here's Why You Should Care

"Beyond the Hills."

The title of the Palme d’Or-winning 2007 Romanian film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” from director Cristian Mungiu, refers to the length of a terminated pregnancy. But in recent months it has taken on the significance of a countdown.

Romanian films such as “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (Cristi Puiu, 2005), “Police, Adjective” (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009) and, of course, “that abortion movie” represent some of the most vibrant and engaging international filmmaking in recent years — garnering ten major awards at Cannes, Berlin and other festivals and spawning a movement referred to as the Romanian New Wave. But now, on the eve of Film Society at Lincoln Center’s “Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema” series, which starts Thursday, Nov. 29, that fresh flow is threatened by sudden changes in the Romanian government’s policies. This is disastrous for the filmmakers, first of all, but also for American cinephiles, who are in danger of much-diminished access to future Romanian films.

READ MORE: Cristian Mungiu, Beyond the Films

The question at the center of Romania’s currently imploding politics is the same question that exists at the heart of “Beyond the Hills”: Who is responsible for this mess?

Consider Mungiu’s most recent work, “Beyond the Hills,” which will have its much-anticipated U.S. release in February. Since its premiere at Cannes, where it won awards for best screenplay and best actress (shared between the leads Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur), and recent screenings at the New York Film Festival and AFI Fest, the buzz around the film has been growing. As Romania’s official entry for the best foreign-language film Oscar this year, “Hills” is likely to find a wider audience. But pretty soon, absent that designation, films such as Mungiu’s could fall off the radar completely.

In June, Prime Minister Victor Ponta passed an undemocratic “emergency ordinance,” without a parliamentary vote, that restructured the Romanian Cultural Institute. This action was largely seen as the Prime Minister’s move to replace all personnel appointed by his political enemy, President Traian Basescu, whom he also tried (and failed) to have impeached later in the summer, via another unconstitutional measure.

READ MORE: CANNES REVIEW: The Good and the Bad of Cristian Mungiu's Post-Palme Drama 'Beyond the Hills'

Mungiu and countless other artists, Romanian and otherwise, argue that the way in which the current Romanian government under Ponta has severely undermined the country’s fragile cultural infrastructure is a real blow to Romania’s image abroad. In one fell swoop, the Prime Minister’s move has dismantled years’ worth of steadily built relationships between the Romanian Cultural Institute, Romanian artists and other countries’ institutions, threatening Romania’s integrity as a civil society. Though the RCI takeover is just one of many alarming “emergency” measures, it is the one that most directly affects the future of Romanian films.

The question at the center of Romania’s currently imploding politics is, in fact, the same question that exists at the heart of “Beyond the Hills”: Who is responsible for this mess?

6 Comments

  • Elvira Lupsa | June 23, 2013 1:47 AMReply

    Hello,
    the Romanian Film Initiative is fundraising now for MAKING WAVES 2013: New Romanian Cinema. Have a look, give a buck and spread the word (we have cool rewards): filmetc.org/kickstarter

    We want to make it bigger and better this year. Thank you for your support!

  • Iuliana Diaconescu | November 30, 2012 3:43 AMReply

    Mi se pare amuzant ca nu ne place sa vedem adevarul despre tara noastra. Daca nu ne place, haide sa ne schimbam, sa cream o Romanie mai buna. Filmele noastre ar trebui sa ne inspire sa fim mai buni. Oricum, fenomenul asta nu se intimpla numai la noi. Majoritatea oamenilor, din orice tara, nu vor sa promoveze o imagine negativa, chiar daca e adevarata. Filmele noastre au o identitate reala, au viata. Pentru motivul asta straini si romani (mai mult sau mai putin) se simpt conectati cu povestile mentionate in acest articol.

    I find it funny that we don't like to see the truth about our country. If we don't like the truth, let's change it, let's create a better Romania. Our movies should inspire us to be better. Anyway, this phenomena is not exclusive to Romania. A majority of people, from any country, don't like to promote a negative image, even if it is truthful. Our movies have a genuine identity, they have life. This is why foreigners and Romanians (more or less) connect with the stories mentioned above.

  • haim filimonovici | November 30, 2012 5:27 PM

    Oare asta e "adevarul" despre Romania? In povestea de la Tanacu nu era vorba de lesbiene, e doar o inventie.
    Dar de la bun inceput filmele astea fictiune, nu documentare. Scopul lor nu e sa promoveze o imagine ori alta a Romaniei, dupa cum scopul Giocondei nu a fost sa promoveze modelul.
    Intrebarea e daca filmele astea sunt bune ori nu. Un test ar fi urmatorul: go on a date to the movie 4, 3, 2. Merge? Nu prea. Go on a date to GoodBye Lenin. Merge? Da. Ei, asta-i diferenta.

  • Andrew C. | November 29, 2012 8:49 AMReply

    Buna, Oana ! Sunt foarte (placut) surprins sa vad numele unei romance pe acest site, pe care-l citesc de ceva timp. Ma bucur ca scrii pentru IndieWire si sper sa-ti citesc, in continuare, cat mai multe articole legate de starea Noului Cinema Romanesc (sau "Puiuland", cum i-ar spune criticul Andrei Gorzo).

    Cat despre acesta... Din pacate, ai foarte mare dreptate. Traim intr-o tara in care nimeni nu mai pune pret pe cultura, iar care o fac, sunt dati la o parte in favoarea politicii - totul pentru propriul interes, pentru obtinerea puterii ! Mungiu a spus intr-un interviu ca (parafrazez) cinematografiei romanesti nu ii lipseste filmul de calitate, ci publicitate, promovarea acestuia. Apropo de premiile Oscar, si filmele noastre ar fi meritate unul (mai ales genialul "4, 3, 2"), dar, din lipsa de promovare, nu l-a luat. Iar faptul ca filmele romanesti evoca si scot in evidenta ce este mai rau din sistemul acestei tari (fie ca vorbim de spitale sau biserici) si devine, din prima, catalogat ca film de festival, film greu de digerat, si nu pentru mase (sau prostime, indraznescu eu) est un lucru... bun ! Filmul este bun, filmul este bine facut ! Noi nu suntem mai prejos decat altii !

    Nu stiu ce ar trebui sa se schimbe pentru ca filmele romanesti sa aiba sansa unui viitor mai "bright"... Poate conducerea politica, poate perceptia, viziunea sau prejudecatile poporului roman. Un lucru e cert: filmele romanesti sunt bune !

    Sper sa tinem, intr-un fel sau altul, legatura ! Spor la scris, ca o faci bine :)

    La revedere :)

  • Andrew C. | December 6, 2012 7:42 AM

    Hmmm... :))

  • clorel namol | November 30, 2012 5:42 PM

    E frumos ca doar romanii comenteaza o stire in engleza. Asta arata impactul puternic al articolului...haha...Revenind la chestiunile de pe forum: nimeni nu il impiedica pe Mungiu sa isi promoveze filmele. Chiar e ajutat enorm de statul roman. Tarantino isi face filmele din banii de taxe? Parca nici George Lukas, si nici Hitchcock. Daca ai incredere in arta ta, fa-o pe bani privati. Atrage investitori, fa imprumuturi etc. Eu, facand parte din "prostime" stiu ca daca un produs nu e bun, atunci nu se vinde. Daca e bun, se vinde, poate nu foarte bine, dar se vinde. 4, 3, 2... nu e "genial", nu e nici macar socant ori realist. E doar plicticos, ieftin si lipsit de orice valoare comerciala. Actuala cinematografie romaneasca consta in niste beizadele bogate care fac pe bani publici filme despre cat de greu a fost ori este in Romania (de parca ei ar avea vreo idee despre cum e saracia ori disperarea - de exemplu Paunescu e printre cei mai bogati oameni din Europa), filme care sunt prost facute, plicticoase, cu sunet si imagine de proasta calitate si, care iau ceva "mentiuni speciale" la niste festivaluri ori premii speciale din partea grupurilor LGBT, dar care nu aduna public in sali. Filmul e "entertainment". Nu esti in stare sa faci "entertainment", nu esti om de film. Iar chestii precum "filmele astea nu sunt pentru prostime" sunt nu doar nepoliticoase, dar si ciudate: daca nu sunt pentru "prostime", atunci de ce regizorul cere pentru ele banii de la "prostime"(bani din bugetul Romaniei)?