It has been a good year for Romanian cinema in terms of number and genres of releases, and the two current ones are good examples for the range of films produced locally. If you've been following this column it has probably not escaped your attention how enthusiastic I am about different genres and approaches: the more, the merrier, and the better a sign of a working movie industry.
The more interesting of the two projects, especially in terms of background and intention, is Tedy Necula's feature debut Coborâm la prima (with no official English title, I would venture and translate it as We‘re Getting Off at the First Stop). The film premiered on October 26 and was released nationwide on 30 October, the day that commemorates the fire at the Bucharest club Colectiv in 2015. The fire which occurred during a rock concert in a venue to small to accommodate a much too large audience and poorly equipped for a crisis was devastating, with more than 60 victims, and many others injured and suffering from long-term effects of burns or carbon monoxide poisoning. Colectiv was a pivotal moment in recent Romanian history, triggering a furious debate on the generalised corruption and the authorities' chronic lack of care or responsibility for its citizens. Massive demonstrations and the public outrage made then prime-minster Victor Ponta step down and lead to the formation of the technocrat government led by Dacian Cioloș.
The date of the film's theatrical start is no coincidence as its plot is related to Colectiv: set in an underground train that stops between stations due to a technical failure on the morning after the Colectiv fire, the narrative follows various people having to connect with each other while being stuck together. Necula's film is, according to its creators, the first Romanian inspirational film, and this is exactly what comes to mind while watching it. It is an unabashed plea for people overcoming their individual problems and prejudices in reaching out to others, and for the power of listening to the ones around you. For those sharing a similar worldview it must be a very touching, life-affirming picture, for the more sceptical ones, the films has more misses than hits. I am usually in the second category, and the film's good intentions didn't stop me from rolling my eyes at some of the lines or the tear-jerking moments, but I have to admit I was touched by how openly Coborâm la prima wears its heart on its sleeve. And don't we all need some reassurance and optimism in the light of the terrible event the film uses as a starting point?
The second premiere has a completely different tone. Camelia Popa's Pup-o, mă!, again with no official English title yet, means Kiss her, you fool! or Kiss her, man! and the title says it all. This is a silly, frilly comedy, mostly romantic, but not only. Set in Transylvania (apparently filmmakers have discovered the comedic potential of the area, I assume mostly due to funny accents, from a Bucharest perspective, and the cliché of the slow, good-natured, slightly dim-witted Transylvanian), the film deals with three shepherds who have reached middle age and still have no wives. And since “a kitchen without a woman is like a lock without a key“, as one of them muses, they need to fix this problem quickly. Especially since the Feast of the Wool is approaching and whomever you kiss that night will apparently be your mate for life. Enter two urban young female filmmakers who crush their pen (almost literally) when their car breaks down and you have a comedy of errors, sex, and some countryside thrills. The film is so cliché-laden I wouldn‘t know where to start, and despite being directed by a woman, it would be a stretch to call it feminist (the girl-on-girl kiss, for instance, is a particularly tired trope of male fantasy). It does have some fun slapstick moments though and the picturesque countryside never disappoints, so if this is your jam, you can check out the screening venues and time here (also for Coborâm la prima).
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]
(Photo source: Coboram la prima on Facebook)