Romanian film review – Europe's finest in Bucharest
Festivalul Filmului European/The European Film Festival has always been reliably good at showing some of the last years' best features from all European countries. Each edition has rare masterpieces up its sleeve, so by all means, save the dates: May 9 to May 11. Organized by the Romanian Cultural Institute, it is a relief to see that this year's edition is still happening - even if shorter and with less titles – after last year's major shift in the institute's structure and budget. However, the traditional tour dates to provincial cities have been postponed to autumn, which does allude to more substantial organizational difficulties. The planned cities are: Iași, Timișoara, Brașov, Târgu Mureș, Cluj-Napoca, Baia Mare, Arad, Târgu Jiu, and Tulcea. Another change, and probably the only one to make viewers happy, is the free entrance to all screenings.
The program runs happily through all genres, from documentaries to comedy and - since it's European arthouse - stark drama, and they come in both short and long feature form.
The headline seems to be the 2011 comedy The Guard and if you are into rude buddy movies, this just might be the funniest film of the season. An upright (read stiff) FBI agent joins a local detective in a drug case set in the very Irish and very small coast town of Connemara. The case turns out to be mind-boggling and the combination between the booze-loving, swearing, womanizing local cop and the African-American by-the-book agent is even more hair-rising. Brendan Gleeson is a joy of an actor and he is nailing the role as the infuriating cop who swears, offends, and drinks his way through the case. He makes a story which is otherwise not particularly original into a laugh-out-loud pleasure.
Sergei Loznitsa's V tumane/In the Fog is another impressive addition to the selection. This one though is an unsettling war drama. Filmed by the excellent Romanian director of photography Oleg Mutu, the film is a visually magnificent, emotionally complex tale of friendship, morality and life-changing decisions in World War II Belorussia. Highly recommended.
Romanian productions are featured as well, most interestingly the documentary 8 Martie/The 8th of March. Anybody living in Romania knows how absurdly cheesy the 8th of March celebration of the Women's Day can get, with ladies hardly able to save themselves from flowers, candy, and inflationary kissing. But what happens to these women during the rest of the year? And how does a feast which had its most elaborate celebration during communism apply to today's context? Young filmmaker Alexandru Belc dares to take a look at women working in what are traditionally 'male' fields: coal mines, factories, driving trams. He also dares to look at women who are neither the youngest nor the most conventionally beautiful or feminine. They are all living in small cities struggling to hold on to their jobs in dying ventures and reminiscing about the former times when their work was thriving and the 8th of March was their day. Watching these women is a pleasure, even if a heartbreaking one. Elegantly filmed and intelligently done, this is a truly feminist film in the most literal sense of the word.
There are many more good titles in the program and since most of them will not be running at a theatre near you, don't miss the chance to catch up with Europe's recent finest. Check out the full program here. Sadly it is only available in Romanian but the films are all running in original language and partially with English subtitles.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, firstname.lastname@example.org