Romanian film review – The week in festivals: Dracula Brașov, Astra Sibiu, Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest

These are busy days for film aficionados. No less than three festivals are taking place at the moment in different cities, all three very much to be recommended, all with differing focuses. This is both excellent, and tragic if you want to visit all (although the logistics of travelling between some of them is not impossible), but what a thrilling time for cinema.

For the sixth time, Brașov is hosting the Dracula Film Festival until Sunday, dedicated, obviously, to the horror and fantasy genre. It’s not hard to figure out why the festival is taking place in the Transylvanian town of Brașov of all cities, or why the not-too-subtle name was chosen, but I am happy to see that the combination between setting, title, and focus are working, as the festival has been growing visibly over the past years, with a current selection that fully delivers. The fact alone that it is still going on in a city that is sleepier than other cities in terms of public enthusiasm for cultural events is even more impressive. The combination between arthouse and commercial, new titles and classics, both international and local, is a good one, and the fact that its definition of horror and fantasy includes more than blood and gore, such as the docu-fiction hybrid The Bucharest Experiment is a sign of (festival) maturity. The remaining two days look promising, so for all of you in Brașov, nearby, or eager to travel, you should treat yourself to some serious thrills and chills. The detailed website and Facebook page are only in Romanian (I hope they fix this next year) but it’s fairly easy to see what screens where and when.

Speaking of vibrant cities, until Sunday Sibiu is THE place to catch documentaries that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Astra Film Festival has always been one of my favourite festivals, thanks to its unfussy, down-to-earth feel (no glitz, glam, or red-carpet vibes when documentarians and anthropologists get together, but more of a family celebration), and its eye-opening selection. These are truly films from across and about the world, and they are revelatory. The event boasts such an impressive, cross-medial, programme that it’s hard to pick something out, but if you are there on Saturday, make sure to catch Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan and Andrei Gorgan’s Free Dacians, or Simon Lereng Wilmont’s The Distant Barking of Dogs, while the winning films on Sunday should be a safe bet. Check out their comprehensive website for all details.

Bucharest is once again hosting a series of films awarded at this year’s prestigious Cannes film festival and as usual, the selection is to die for. It starts today and will go on until October 28. Just like with Astra, it’s almost impossible to pick out something to recommend, but I will try nevertheless: Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (in a special screening dedicated to other festival winners), Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass, Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters, Lukas Dhont’s Girl, Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, and the masterclass with Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose 2011 A Separation (also screening) is truly a perfect film. Also, the free daily Lucian Pintilie title is also a must. And the best about it: there are also screenings during this period and in November in Timișoara, Arad, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea, Suceava, Brașov, and Iași. Check out their programme here.

By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]

(Photo source: Dracula Film Festival on Facebook)