Radu Jude is one of those very bright, very young Romanian directors to keep an eye on, proving that he can display his keen observation skills with both short and long features, such as the one which has been currently earning him one international award after the other, the 2012 drama Everybody in Our Family/Toată lumea din familia noastră. His film has been doing the national and international festival circuit with excellent results this year and its streak of success continued with the prize for best narrative at the Philadelphia Film Festival one week ago.
The film was shown briefly in Romanian cinemas in spring and has not been released on DVD yet, but I am sure it's just a matter of time until it can be watched outside the film festivals. Until then there's an earlier Jude film available on DVD to sweeten the wait, namely his first feature, The Happiest Girl in the World/Cea mai fericită fată din lume (2009). And if you haven't watched it yet, please run to your nearest Cărtureşti or Diverta book store and do so right away because there are few films which manage to capture the essential traits of contemporary Romania so accurately and in such a concise manner. It is almost uncanny. (trailer below)
A provincial girl wins a car in a contest organized by a large a soft drinks company and the only condition for collecting her prize is to come to Bucharest and advertise for them in a silly commercial. She brings her overbearing parents along and the few hours on the set mount to a ridiculous display of greed, stupidity, and corporate neurotics. Despite her age of nineteen Delia is still very much a child and the actress Andreea Boşneag does a great job of making her both vulnerable and infuriating in her passive and whining ways. Violeta Haret and Vasile Muraru as her parents are also impeccable, especially Muraru, who is otherwise known for his less than intellectual comedy sketches on TV. Mixing drama and deadpan comedy, the cool-headed film draws an unsettling picture of rabid consumerism, individual and collective greed.
It may not leave you feeling like the happiest audience in the world, but is it a terribly sharp, nasty, and funny piece on this country's sore spots, while also not shying away from ridiculing the holiest of family ethics. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And with soft drinks.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com