An insider guide to TIFF #21 - the 2022 edition of the biggest film festival in Romania
Having been one of the only film festivals in the world to organize a special edition during the height of the Covid Pandemic, the Transilvania International Film Festival returns during yet another difficult period in time, as the war between Ukraine and Russia rages on.
Believing in the sovereignty of peace, the festival’s organizers have put out an important message with the 21st edition: Make Films, Not War!
Inspired by the classic slogan “Make Love, Not War!” that emerged in the 1960s at the height of the American aggression in Vietnam, the Transilvania International Film Festival marks their position as firm opposers to war and the destruction that it brings and states that the only "conflict" TIFF encourages is the one happening on the silver screen.
The festival’s opening gala takes place on the evening of the first day, June 17, at the open-air cinema of Unirii Square in central Cluj and features the Romanian premiere of Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy’s directorial debut Call Jane.
The film, starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, is a fictional account based on real historical events of the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960s.
It tells the story of a woman who lives a comfortable life in a Chicago suburb alongside her family until an unwanted pregnancy threatens her health. It's 1968, and abortion is still illegal. Her attempt to find a way out of this grave situation leads her to discover The Janes, an underground organization of women who will change her life.
TIFF for Ukraine
The Transilvania International Film Festival launches a special initiative dedicated to the Ukrainian community.
Ukrainian citizens will have free access to all festival films screened in Unirii Square based on their ID.
EducaTIFF, the section of the festival dedicated to children and teenagers, will include films with Ukrainian subtitles.
Ukrainian musicians will hold concerts throughout the festival.
This year’s edition also includes screenings of films created by Ukrainian directors, such as Oleg Sentsov’s Rhino (2021), which follows the life of a young felon moving up the in the rankings of the Ukrainian mafia of the 90s. The director was arrested in 2014 after protesting against the annexation of Crimea by Russia and convicted to 20 years in prison by a Russian court in 2015 under the accusation of a terrorist plot. The campaign for his release was supported by the European Film Academy, Amnesty International, the European Parliament, as well as by his fellow directors and he was set free.
Festival guests and spectators will be encouraged to support the Ukrainian film industry with a text-to-donate campaign, and all funds raised during the campaign will be distributed to the industry professionals with the help of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), a body established by the European Film Academy.
Author retrospectives in the 3X3 Section: Gaspar Noé, Ildikó Enyedi, and Alexandru Solomon
The festival is revisiting the work of these three esteemed directors from France, Hungary, and Romania, showcasing three of each director’s most interesting films.
3x3: Gaspar Noé
Starring Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, and Albert Dupontel, it is the story of two men’s attempt to avenge the brutal rape and beating of the woman they love. It is considered one of the most shocking films in the history of cinema.
The film was initially released in reverse order, with each scene being shown before the one that preceded it in the narrative chronology. However, TIFF audiences will be shown the film’s straight cut, which was released in 2019 at the Venice Film Festival.
Enter the Void (2009)
A divisive experimental art film, which Noé calls a „psychedelic melodrama”. Set in neon-lit Tokyo, the story follows Oscar, a young American drug dealer who gets fatally shot by the police, but continues to watch subsequent events during an out-of-body experience.
The director waited nearly 20 years to produce this unique film, as the technology he needed was not available for a long time.
The film, which was awarded the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera Prize at the San Sebastián Film Festival, is set in Paris and tells the story of a retired psychiatrist with dementia and her husband, an elderly author with a heart condition, who are struggling through their declining health with the help of their son. It stars Dario Argento as the father, Françoise Lebrun as his wife, and Alex Lutz as their son.
3x3: Ildikó Enyedi
My Twentieth Century (1989)
Having been awarded the Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, the film is considered a superlative of Hungarian cinema. The film follows the lives of twin sisters Dóra, a pseudo-aristocrat, and Lili, an anarchist bomber, who were separated as children and are reunited through a mysterious man called Z.
On Body and Soul (2017)
This film was Enyedi’s comeback and earned her a Golden Bear at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and an Academy Awards nomination. A sensitively surrealist film, it tells the story of a slaughterhouse CFO and the newly appointed meat quality inspector who discover they have been having the same recurring dream.
The Story of My Wife
Based on one of the director’s favorite novels from her teenage years, the film follows Jacob Störr, a sea captain, who makes a bet with a friend that he will marry the first woman who enters the cafe they are in. The film, which is being shown in Romania for the first time, depicts what can happen in a relationship plagued by doubt and jealousy.
3x3: Alexandru Solomon
Clara B (2006)
A meditation on 20th-century history and the importance of archives that takes the form of the fictional biography of Clara B, a photographer, and reporter born in Strasbourg in 1901, and of the fictional museum curator who discovered the documents about her life.
The film is made up of archival footage, newsreels, and authentic period photographs.
Cold Waves (2007)
A documentary about the anti-Communist Free Europe Radio station, wherein we witness the crossfire between the Free Europe Radio representatives, the members of the Communist Secret Services, and the radio listeners.
Tarzan’s Testicles (2017)
The film tells us of the tragic destinies of monkeys and men. Set in a tiny republic on the Oriental shores of the Black Sea, a territory ravaged by war and cruelty, the film looks at the medical research institute that was established here by the Soviets in the 1920s. Legend says it was meant to create a hybrid between man and ape. The creature never came into existence, but the institute has left scars nonetheless.
Close-Up: Krzysztof Kieślowski
An astute observer of human experiences and a master of the so-called “cinema of moral unrest”, Polish film director and screenwriter Krzysztof Kieślowski is being celebrated with an ample retrospective.
During the festival, ten of his most appreciated works will be revisited as part of a special program dedicated to Polish cinematography, including films such as No End (1985), The Double Life of Véronique (1992), the Three Colors Trilogy – Blue (1993), White (1994), Red (1995) and two episodes from the director’s Dekalog (1988).
Cine-concert Nosferatu: 100 years later
In 1922, legendary director F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu premiered on the big screen, revolutionizing the world of cinema and forever defining the horror genre.
In honor of its 100th anniversary, the Transylvania International Film Festival is presenting it in its restored version on the evening of June 18 at the Banffy Castle in Bonțida, where it will be accompanied by a musical performance offered by the 27 soloists of the Hungarian State Opera in Cluj-Napoca.
Cine-concert The Polish Dancer (1917)
The only Polish production featuring the famous actress Pola Negri to survive to this day, director Aleksander Hertz's masterpiece of silent cinema, premieres in Romania on June 20 in a digitally restored version, which will be accompanied live by the music of Grammy award-winning composer and pianist Włodek Pawlik.
Film Food: Five Star Dinners inspired by the Silver Screen
Moviegoers will have the opportunity of tasting Michelin-starred meals prepared by renowned chefs in this edition’s gastronomical section screened at the Military Center, in which a selection of films will be shown paired with meals inspired by their stories.
The films and dinners are as follows:
On Sunday evening, June 19th, spectators are invited to Annika Appelin Karin’s Tuesday Club (2022), followed by a meal cooked by Romanian chef Cezar Munteanu.
On Monday, June 20th, spectators are invited to view Beth Elise Hawke’s Breaking Bread (2019) and to eat a post-screening dinner which will be prepared by a chef of Israeli descent and will include dishes inspired by flavors of traditional Jewish cuisine.
On Tuesday, June 21st, spectators are invited to the screening of Rasmus Dinesen’s documentary Nordic by Nature (2021), which will be followed by a dinner prepared by Romanian chef Sergiu Giulean.
Romanian Film Days Competition
This is a section dedicated to promising new voices in Romanian cinema, and 9 of the 12 feature films presented this year are authored by first-time directors, many of them already awarded at major international festivals. The Romanian Film Days selection is rounded out by 18 short films, most of them making their first public appearance.
Some films to see in this section are:
Miracle (2021) - A psychological thriller starring Emanuel Pârvu and Ioana Bugarin, who plays the role of a nun who falls prey to a nefarious incident that leads to a police investigation.
Man and Dog (2022) - Director Ștefan Constantinescu's debut, starring Bogdan Dumitrache as a man who returns home from Sweden to confirm his suspicions about his wife's infidelity. Alongside his mother’s dog, he shadows his wife around town, trying to uncover her betrayal. It all takes place against the backdrop of the pandemic.
You Are Ceausescu To Me (2021) – This is a hybrid docufiction directed by Sebastian Mihăilescu. In it, a group of young people from different backgrounds take part in a casting call for a film about the former dictator's early years and play a game of historical reconstruction. The result is both a portrait of the young generation and a glimpse at the legacy of Romania's communist leader.
Immaculate (2021) - Monica Stan and George Chiper’s debut is a story of lost innocence depicting the trials and tribulations of 18-year-old Daria who is submitted to rehab to get rid of her heroin addiction. Admired and protected by all the men in the clinic, Daria enjoys the attention, until she finds out that any special treatment has a price.
The Island (2021) – Director Anca Damian’s newest animated film. Bursting with creativity and color, the surrealist comedy inspired by Gellu Naum's play reinterprets the story of Robinson Crusoe, introducing Robinson as a doctor who retreats to an island populated by immigrants, activists, and other interesting characters.
The Goat and Her Three Kids (2021) - Victor Canache's indie debut feature film, adapted from Ion Creanga's story, stars Maia Morgenstern and Marius Bodochi in a story set in 19th century rural Romania, where a widow and mother of three must defend what’s left of her family, at all costs, from an old family friend turned foe.
One of Ukraine's best-known and most appreciated bands, DakhaBrakha (in old Ukrainian "give/take"), returns to the Transilvania International Film Festival for a performance that is part of the TIFF For Ukraine initiative. DakhaBrakha defines its style as "ethnic chaos". The essence of their music comes from Ukrainian folklore, to which jazz, trance, rhythms, and instruments from diverse cultures have been added. The result is an intriguing show that can be seen in Cluj-Napoca on June 23rd at Iulius Park Open Air.
Eliades Ochoa, who became famous worldwide in the late 1990s as a founding member of the Buena Vista Social Club is an iconic figure in Latin American music. Eliades Ochoa's concerts are a celebration of Latin American music and passion, full of melancholy and joy. He will perform with his band Grupo Patria at TIFF2022 on June 24 at Iulius Park Open Air. Additionally, there will be a special screening during the festival of Wim Wender’s 1999 Academy Award-nominated documentary Buena Vista Social Club, as Eliades Ochoa is one of the main characters.
“What's up, doc?” Documentary Competition
10 documentaries authored by new filmmakers from all over the world will be screened in the Transilvania International Film Festival’s first-ever competition dedicated to documentary film. The films are: You Are Ceaușescu to Me (dir. Sebastian Mihăilescu), Brotherhood (dir. Francesco Montagner), Bukolika (dir. Karol Palka), Excess Will Save Us (dir. Morgane Dziurla-Petit), The Plains (dir. David Easteal), Mother Lode (dir. Matteo Tortone), Ostrov-Lost Island (dir. Svetlana Rodina, Laurent Stoop), Atlantide (dir. Yuri Ancarani), Channel 54 (dir. Lucas Larriera), and For a Fistful of Fries (d. Jean Libon, Yves Hinant).
TIFF for Kids
The festival is kid-friendly and has a film selection completely dedicated to children called EDUCATIFF, as well as 9 full days of activities, performances, and workshops planned for families with kids in the city’s Polygon Park.
More information about the festival, including the full schedule and options to buy tickets, can be found on their website.
(Photo source: TIFF on Facebook)