DAILY | “Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema”

“Celebrating the Romanian New Wave at Lincoln Center” is the title of Michael Nordine‘s overview of the week-long series opening today in New York, and cinephiles everywhere will want to do just that: celebrate it. At the same time, we need to sound the alarm. First things first, though, beginning with BOMB Magazine‘s preview of its forthcoming Winter Issue, a video conversation between Liza Béar and Cristian Mungiu, whose Beyond the Hills, Romania’s official entry into the Foreign Language Oscar race (more), will be a highlight of the series:

Next, Michael Nordine: “What’s now referred to as the Romanian New Wave announced itself loudest with Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which in 2007 won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The laurel wasn’t exactly unprecedented—at least one Romanian film had received a major award at the festival each of the two years prior—but it nevertheless felt definitive. Deeply rooted in the nearly quarter-century (1965 to 1989) reign of Nicolae Ceausescu as its authoritarian dictator and characterized by minimalist staging and deadpan black humor, the central European nation’s recent contributions to the world of film have been good or great with almost alarming frequency. Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual series co-sponsored by the Romanian Film Initiative, begins [today] with Tudor Giurgiu’s Of Snails and Men and runs for exactly a week. In addition to a dozen or so other recent works, it also features a shorts program and a retrospective devoted to Alexandru Tatos.”

Now then. As Larry Rohter reports in the New York Times, the FSLC “has severed its connection to the Romanian Cultural Institute, the festival’s original government-financed co-sponsor, in favor of collaboration with a new, private entity, called the Romanian Film Initiative, run by the former director of the institute’s New York office.”

At Indiewire, Oana Sanziana Marian explains why: “In June, Prime Minister Victor Ponta passed an undemocratic ’emergency ordinance,’ without a parliamentary vote, that restructured the Romanian Cultural Institute. This action was largely seen as the Prime Minister’s move to replace all personnel appointed by his political enemy, President Traian Basescu, whom he also tried (and failed) to have impeached later in the summer, via another unconstitutional measure. Mungiu and countless other artists, Romanian and otherwise, argue that the way in which the current Romanian government under Ponta has severely undermined the country’s fragile cultural infrastructure is a real blow to Romania’s image abroad. In one fell swoop, the Prime Minister’s move has dismantled years’ worth of steadily built relationships between the Romanian Cultural Institute, Romanian artists and other countries’ institutions, threatening Romania’s integrity as a civil society. Though the RCI takeover is just one of many alarming ’emergency’ measures, it is the one that most directly affects the future of Romanian films.”

Rohter reports that Corina Suteu “resigned in September, along with her deputy, Oana Radu, as director of the New York office of the Romanian Cultural Institute.” Suteu: “The present authorities have gone back to a discourse on culture that is very archaic, and they do not consider new wave cinema as being ‘representative’ of Romania.” Andrei Ujica (The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu): “It’s a kind of attempt at a small cultural revolution, in a Maoist meaning, but in a new form, coupled with the new tabloid culture that has become so strong in East European countries. That is a new and dangerous mixture, with a very rigid nationalist focus.”

Rohter: “Unusually, the program also includes two panel discussions, titled ‘Creative Freedom Through Cinema: Romania and Hungary,’ that will be linked with screenings on Saturday and Sunday. Hungary, Romania’s neighbor, is included in the discussion because the nationalist government there has been criticized as curbing freedom of expression.”

Meantime, back to the celebration:

Updates, 12/2: “Expertly acted without any overscaled moments puncturing the literally pent-up tension, [Radu Jude’s] Everybody in Our Family queasily treads the border of being unrewardingly unpleasant,” writes Vadim Rizov at GreenCine Daily. “Radu Gabrea’s Three Days Till Christmas reconsiders the 1989 last days of Romania’s longtime leader Nicolae Ceausescu (Constantin Cojocaru) and inseparable wife Elena (Victoria Cocias). Ceausescu’s long dictatorship—beginning with idealistic, anti-totalitarian rhetoric, ending in massive national impoverishment, infant malnutrition and the secret police excesses of the Securitate—was terminated in the three days leading up to Christmas 1989…. Composed solely of muddy, often informationally unclear TV footage from the period, it’s must-see viewing for those interested in the period.”

Adrian Sitaru’s Best Intentions “may be modestly small-scale, but is quite a fascinating character study,” writes Christopher Bourne at Twitch. Also, Of Snails and Men has “crowd-pleasing ambitions, offering gentle humor and colorful characters. Unfortunately, the political and social commentary lacks bite due to its general blandness and tendency to traffic in broadly stereotypical characters.”

And for the FSLC, Anna Husted interviews Tudor Giurgiu, while Eugene Hernandez talks with Corina Şuteu, Oana Radu and fellow programmer Mihai Chirilov.

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