Last month, Romania’s second city transformed itself into the national laughter capital, courtesy of the Cluj International Comedy Festival, a celebration of comic film. Festival director Horatiu Dan and programmer Bogdan Besliu looked back over this year’s festival and shared their highlights with Business Review. And what’s more, the film festival comes to Bucharest to give us another good laugh. The event will take place between December 5 to December 7 at Cinema Union.
The Cluj International Comedy Festival involved 147 film projections in nine different locations, the screening of 192 movies from 38 countries across four continents and over 100 special guests who entertained the public for ten days, as well as jazz concerts, theater, dance and parties, all put together by over 200 organizers, both festival employees and volunteers.
“We wanted a diverse selection in terms of genres, and the best word to describe this year’s movie selection was diversity: we had musicals, black comedy, pure comedy, absurd comedy and black humor from absurd situations. The festival aimed to show the public that comedy isn’t a movie genre where you just go to laugh, but a more complex genre,” Besliu told BR.
He recommends four movies in particular, one of which took two awards at the festival for best film and best script, Jacky in the Women’s Kingdom, directed by Riad Sattouf, in which society is turned upside down and the rulebook goes out of the window. Italian production I Can Quit Whenever I Want (Sydney Sibilia) comes under the pure comedy label, and draws on several well placed clichés. Documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (Mike Myers), and Pride (Matthew Warchus), one of the best movies of the year, round out Besliu’s selection. Dan also praises Pride, for which the Florin Piersic Cinema was fully booked out after the festival closing gala.
The shorts selection was the most difficult, as over 800 works were submitted via the application process, while over 400 were recommended by friends of the festival. In response, Besliu instituted several criteria reducing the field to 400 short movies for this, the sixth edition, he told BR BR.
“From the beginning, we excluded American box office movies because audiences already have access to this type of work. We wanted to show them other movies that aren’t so easy to discover otherwise. A few of the films presented at the festival have been released nationwide, and we included them in the program because some are extremely good, and others were recommendations from friends who didn’t get to see the respective movie at the cinema. Examples are Transylvanian garlic/Usturoi directed by Lucian Alexandrescu, Kraftidioten (Hans Petter Moland)and About Time (Richard Curtis),” said Besliu.
About last night…
One of the biggest surprises came during the closing gala, where both guests and journalists were taken aback by the inclusion of their names and inside jokes about them, as well as the festival’s “making of” video, in which many of the guests had a short appearance. One of the most highly anticipated moments of the evening was the presentation of the Excellence in Career award, a distinction that this year was given to renowned Romanian actor Victor Rebengiuc. The previous evening, Lucian Pintilie’s film Why do the bells toll, Mitica? / De ce trag clopotele, Mitica?, in which Rebengiuc plays the main character, had been shown. Asked by BR why so many viewers flocked to this particular screening – the organizers had to bring more seating to accommodate the audience – Dan answered, “The public doesn’t ignore its cultural past. It is crystal clear that we focus on the cultural present, but we don’t ignore the cultural past and this is why Pintilie’s 1981 movie starring Victor Rebengiuc was so acclaimed. The public likes this type of event, the retrospective, where Romania’s greatest actors receive these awards. This kind of thing happens every year.”