A film by Moldovan director Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu has won a prize at this year’s Rome Film Festival, picking up the award for short and medium length features in the CinemaXXI section of the competition. The film Panihida is set in rural Moldova and tells the story of an old woman’s funeral as seen through the eyes of her son Petru and her granddaughter Anişoara.
As perhaps could be expected, the film documents the rites and traditions surrounding funerals in a rural community of the region, but to think of it as a depiction of sombre, incense smoke clouded Orthodox ritual alone would be a mistake. Panihidia is as much a celebration of life as it is a lament of death; the sharing of the funeral by the whole village, the conversations and drinking during the death watch on a stormy night before the funeral and the singing and rejoicing on the sunlit day itself.
Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu openly based the film on her own experience of returning to Moldova for her grandmother’s funeral. “The very long way carrying the coffin to the cemetery, walking with the dead under the suffocating heat and with every step the transformation of sorrow into the normality and the joy of life, inspired me to make a movie out of that experience,” said the director.
At the time, Ana was returning to her birthplace after many years out of the country and, as a result, the impression the traditions and rituals made against the backdrop (as in the film) of a baking hot summer in stunning countryside were even stronger. “After so many years abroad the revival of all the emotions and rituals, the smells and faces of my childhood, were an incredible experience for me,” said Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu.
The film stars Anişoara Morari, Petru Roşcovan, Nina Rabuş, Valentin Aga and Valeriu Ţurcanu and captures the life and landscapes of the hills of Trebujeni beautifully. Two of the director’s short films Hinterhof (Backyard) in 2010 and the earlier Intre Ziduri (Between Walls) won prizes at international film festivals and with Panihida adding the Rome Festival award to its previous Robert Bosch Co-production Prize for co productions between Germany and Eastern Europe the future looks bright for Ana. “A journey to the roots, a regional film without kitsch – and the beginning of a directing career, that will interest us without doubt for a long time,” said film critic Rüdiger Suchsland in Film-Dienst.
Panihida is a German/Moldovan co-production by Weydemann Bros., which produces films for the German and international markets.
Liam Lever, firstname.lastname@example.org
photo source: Courtesy of Weydemann Bros