In March the local film world celebrates its best movies. The Gopo Awards – Romania’s equivalent to the Oscars – included an impressive number of productions that have traveled the world, collecting awards and glowing reviews. BR looks back at what graced the silver screen in 2016.
Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada, Adrian Sitaru’s Ilegitim, Bogdan Mirica’s Dogs and Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation are household names that need little introduction to cineastes. All of them, along with many others, were in the race for the Gopo Awards, the only prizes celebrating the Romanian movie scene. The nomination phase was followed by voting, in which 450 active professionals from all areas of the local film industry were invited to choose their favorites, through a voting process provided and supervised by the audit and consulting company, PwC Romania. The eleventh run, which culminated on March 21 at the Bucharest National Theatre, saw 21 feature films, 15 documentaries and 52 short films officially enter the nomination race in one of 20 categories.
One of the big achievements for Romanian cinema last year was an impressive presence at the Cannes Film Festival, where the number of local productions across all sections was, remarkably, the third highest of any country, after the cinematic epicenters of the US and France.
“It was fully 11 years ago that Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, about the ways a healthcare system fails a dying man, took the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, kicking off the so-called Romanian New Wave. Two years later Mungiu won the Palme d’Or for his period abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” wrote the LA Times last year. That was the launch pad for modern Romanian cinema, paving the way for future productions to be recognized and acclaimed by international critics as complex, interesting and subtle works.
Local critics’ corner
“Romania had a very good year in 2016 with films selected and awarded in major festivals – it was the best year in Cannes so far. Very good films were released and what is probably more important is that genres are beginning to diversify beyond the New Wave path – which for some is already too tired and tiresome,” commented film critic Iulia Blaga. Last year also saw another major accomplishment following the approval of several key changes to the Cinema Law just before the end of the former government’s mandate in late November, she added. “It is very important that the Emergency Ordinance not be dismantled in Parliament and that the reform started by the Ministry of Culture in 2016 continues on all levels: film funding, National Film Archives’ restoration, film education etc,” said Blaga.
Ionut Mares, film critic for Ziarul Metropolis, notes, “2016 was a pretty good year for Romanian cinematography, both in terms of festivals – Berlin, Cannes, Locarno, Karlovy Vary – and the number of films (around 20). We had new films – some bold, some less satisfactory – launched by some of the most influential directors in different stages of the New Wave (Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu, Radu Jude, Catalin Mitulescu, Adrian Sitaru, Marian Crisan) and a very promising debut – the thriller Dogs by Bogdan Mirica.”
Critics also noted that last year, two local productions convinced the public to come out in droves to the cinema: Paul Negoescu’s Two Lottery Tickets and Cristina Iacob’s #Selfie69. These two movies generated ticket sales of over 100,000, impressive numbers for the local scene.
“But in 2016, more than affirmation from selections at festivals, we showed that Romania can be a successful independent film powerhouse. I mean, Two Lottery Tickets was made with just a few thousand euros and was seen by over 130,000 Romanians. Without talking about quality, Two Lottery Tickets should bring a change in perspective among our directors and producers, but also a change in strategy from the National Center of Cinematography, namely: popular films which already have audiences should be made without the support of the institution,” argued Stefan Dobroiu, senior editor at Cinemagia.