Academic journal article Film Criticism

In Short(s) about the New Romanian Cinema

Academic journal article Film Criticism

In Short(s) about the New Romanian Cinema

Article excerpt

At the beginning of the 1990s, the French Institute in Bucharest organized a festival for post-1989 Romanian films. After the screenings, Alex. Leo Serban, one of the most insightful film critics of the New Romanian Cinema, concluded: "... [N]u exista cinematografie romaneasca demna de acest nume!" ("... [T] here is no Romanian cinema worthy of this name!") ("Despre un cinematograf care nu exista" 17). (1) Fragmented, under-funded, with no coherent distribution system, and increasingly short of theaters and spectators, the Romanian film industry had little chance of international visibility and recognition. (2) Surprisingly, short films, often perceived as second-hand relatives of their longer counterparts, soon announced a new generation of filmmakers and prepared the grounds for their international acclaim. In the process, something unanticipated happened: short films also gained in importance as a distinct, respectable film genre. The Romanian directors' journey to the red carpet has not been straightforward or easy. They have had to become both business-savvy and particularly resilient in order to succeed, but making short films provided them with the training they needed.

Several considerations on the business of short films

Many of the new Romanian directors began their careers with the few shorts they had to submit throughout their years of study at the "I. L. Caragiale" National University of Dramatic Art and Cinema (UNATC), the first source of support for future filmmakers. Starting with Hanno Hofer's Telefon in strainatate (International Phone Call, 1997), or Cristian Nemescu's Mihai si Cristina (Mihai and Cristina, 2001), both of which gained encouraging prizes at international film festivals for students, the Romanian Film Academy has become the launching pad for its students. CineMAiubit, the students' international film festival, also helped considerably since its screens were first lit in 1996 in response to the lack of exhibition opportunities; it brought these new directors their first critical recognition. Cristian Mungiu, Catalin Mitulescu, Cristian Nemescu, and Corneliu Porumboiu are among the laureates who have subsequently become famous after receiving awards at Cannes.

State financial support also comes, in some cases, from the National Center for Cinema (CNC), a body established in 1997. Among others, Cristi Puiu's Un cartus de Kent si un pachet de cafea (Cigarettes and Coffee, 2004) and Bogdan Mustata's O zi buna de plaja (A Good Day for a Swim, 2008), both awarded the Berlin Golden Bear, or Catalin Mitulescu's Trafic (Traffic, 2004), awarded the Palme d'Or, list CNC as one of their producers. The CNC's policies of financing, however, have been under constant criticism. (3) Most filmmakers have had to rely on money from other, often several, sources.

Finally, state of private television channels occasionally contribute to the production of short films. HBO Romania and Romanian Film Production (APFR) hold annual script competitions, and so does the national television channel. Recent shorts such as Marian Crisan's Portret de familie (Family Portrait, 2007) and Amatorul (The Amateur, 2008) were among the ten selected in a screenplay competition organized by the state television channel; young filmmakers directed the films, and the state partially paid for their production (Rus, "O discutie," 19).

Under such circumstances, private production companies have been essential. Cristian Mungiu considers that the "Romanian New Wave" includes directors with different styles, whose common points are the timing of their international recognition and, especially, their abilities as producers: "One thing we all have in common is the fact that we are not only writer-directors, but we also produce the films ourselves. So, within the limitations of our small budgets, we all have the freedom to make the films we see fit" (Porton, par. 25). The Romanian film industry is the breeding ground of such small production companies. …

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