Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Oana Sanziana Marian
November 28, 2012 1:15 PM
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Commentary: Romanian Cinema Is In Grave Danger -- And Here's Why You Should Care

As a direct result of the new policies in Romania, 2012 funding for RCI ceased in July of this year, endangering existent programming worldwide such as the Romanian Film Festival in New York, which is partnering for the first time this year with Lincoln Center. “Making Waves,” as the seventh edition of the festival is called, will in fact take place, closing with “Beyond the Hills.” However, the Lincoln Center’s partner is no longer the state-run RCINY. It’s now called the Romanian Film Initiative, and it was started by the former heads of the RCINY office, Corina Suteu and Oana Radu. To replace the funding recalled by the Romanian government, Suteu and Radu were forced to launch a Kickstarter campaign that successfully brought in more than $22,000 from 263 donors.

Tudor Giurgiu's "Of Snails and Men," part of the "Making Waves" series at Lincoln Center.
While the old RCI seemed committed to bridging the gap between Romanian artists and their potential audiences, its new mission is to promote state-sponsored Romanian cultural products abroad (or what some might label “propaganda”). For an idea of what this might mean, consider the difference between the films of Neil Jordan and the mass-consumption-ready thrills of “Riverdance.”

In pointing to the discomfort and difficulty of watching the Romanian New Wave films, critics are not wrong, per se. The prevailing aesthetic of “Beyond the Hills,” like Mungiu’s previous film “432,” is life, starkly lit and captured by a lens that aims to withhold judgment, blame or any hint of gratuitous softness or relief, while also pinning the viewer to her seat with an accumulating tension so that she can’t look away. It’s hard to defend against accusations that the film sometimes nudges realism over the ledge of “unflinching” to something just short of sadistic, even as it waves the anti-sensationalist flag.

The new Romanian films are difficult to watch. As were the great films of the “Old Wave,” from directors such as Lucian Pintilie and Mircea Danieluc. So perhaps it’s understandable that many older Romanians, who’ve lived most of their lives under Communism, and who now face an austere and frightening retirement, might respond to the reallocation of state funding with a gesture that is as much Romanian as the thumb-to-forefingers is Italian: a simultaneous shrug and scowl of swift, bitter dismissal. “We’ve lived through miserable times,” they could be saying. “Why pay for more of the same?”

"Bicycle Thieves" (1948)
Meanwhile, many of the younger generation, brought up in a dilapidated educational system only to come of age in the midst of recession, unemployment and a devastating national drain of intelligence, talent and manpower (the theme of Mungiu’s first film, “The West”), find these films too bleak, too long, too silent — in other words, not entertaining enough. (It is maybe worth noting that when Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” came out in 1948, the poor, beleaguered Italians it represented hated the film and asked for their money back, while the rest of the world immediately recognized it as a masterpiece.)

Romanian filmmakers aren’t concerned with simple entertainment, nor should they be in a culture so long deprived of real freedom. We need their “24 lies per second in the service of truth,” as another “difficult” director, Michael Haneke, has said. Stripping artists of the infrastructure that supports them is a form of suppression, as damaging as dictating what kind of work they are allowed to make. And the loss of a functional cultural infrastructure for Romanian filmmakers is a loss for the people who will have a harder time getting access to their work. Cinema, the most collaborative, cumbersome and costly of the creative arts, is particularly vulnerable.

The hope is that the last few years of strong Romanian films have bolstered both the filmmakers and their audience enough to overcome Romania’s truly shameful politics and to keep this creative valve open. Visibility is a filmmaker’s practical currency, ensuring opportunities and funding for future films. But it isn’t only that. Visibility, literally, is what makes the film a reality. In effect, a film that nobody sees doesn’t exist.

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

    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)?