Romanian film review – Show me the money: Philanthropy (Filantropica)

With no noteworthy new films running in the cinemas at the moment, this is a great opportunity to revive some classics. And the 2002 comedy Filantropica/Philanthropy definitely qualifies for the title.

Before the angry young men of the New Wave took the international film world by storm, there was Nae Caranfil, a highly intelligent and cultivated filmmaker. Although less radical in form and tone than his younger colleagues, he is an endlessly entertaining and mature director whose refined humor can be just as biting.

Mr Caranfil started by studying script writing and this shows: his films are all so well-written they should be compulsory in film schools. His third film, Philathropy, is the best example for a great idea staged with perfection: Ovidiu Gorea is a penniless high school teacher still living with his parents and moonlighting as a writer (whose books are unfortunately titled – Nobody Dies for Free – and, unfortunately for Ovidiu, nobody wants to buy them). After he discovers that even beggars make more money than him, he considers some unorthodox extracurricular activities to make an extra buck. The most hilarious of Caranfil’s ideas is the Filantropica Foundation, a sort of union for ‘talented’ beggars, which turns begging into an art form and a proper business and is run by a sleazy ex-convict with the best lines in the entire film. His philosophy of squeezing money out of gullible citizens is summed up by the wise saying: “Unless the hand that begs tells a story, it gets no money.”

The acting is also top-notch while the soundtrack is continuously amusing. If you haven’t seen this one so far, you should do so urgently. There are few Romanian comedies this brilliantly written. It will delight you.

The English subtitled film can be found at the Cărturești stores and at their online store. 

And have a look at the trailer below; it is only in Romanian but the 90s feel alone is worth seeing over and over again.

By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected] 

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