The Gopo Awards may not enjoy the international attention of the Oscars and Cannes, and may not see the world’s top acting stars walking the red carpet, but they highlight the growing prestige of local filmmaking. Romanian cinema’s New Wave has for several years now served as a cultural ambassador for the country, and the Gopo Awards honor the main Romanian cinematic achievements of the previous year. So who are the 2013 winners?
By Oana Vasiliu
Over 400 professionals from the Romanian film industry voted in this year’s Gopo Awards, which took place on March 25. The event is named after the Romanian cartoonist Ion Popescu Gopo, who won a Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1957.
Keeping it in the family
The Romanian film Everybody in our Family/Toata lumea din familia noastra won six awards at the Gopo gala. Directed by Radu Jude, it took home the gongs for Best Film, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (Serban Pavlu), Best Actor in Secondary Role (Gabriel Spahiu), Best Actress in Secondary Role (Mihaela Sirbu) and Best Script (Radu Jude and Corina Sabau). In 2012, the film won the grand prize at the Anonimul Film festival and the Heart of Sarajevo award.
Everybody in our Family is a familiar Romanian story: Marius is a divorced man in his late thirties whose ex-wife, Otilia, has remarried an accountant. Their five-year-old daughter, Sofia, lives with her mother, to the chagrin of Marius, who has been awarded only limited visitation rights. When the frustrated father arrives to collect his daughter for a short holiday by the seaside, his ex-wife is not home and he is told that his daughter is sick. Marius doesn’t believe it and tries to take Sofia by force.
The small incident proves to be the trigger for a violent and emotional rollercoaster involving all the family members in a story that mixes humor, violence, childish songs, police intervention, declarations of love, blood and a haiku. The cast is made up of Serban Pavlu, Sofia Nicolaescu, Mihaela Sarbu, Gabriel Spahiu and veteran actors Tamara Buciuceanu-Botez, Stela Popescu and Alexandru Arsinel.
The magnificent seven
The film Somewhere in Palilula/Undeva la Palilula won seven awards from 11 nominations, for Best Costumes (Lia Mantoc), Best Image (Adrian Silisteanu), Best Decorations (Helmut Stürmer, Dragos Buhagiar), Best Original Music (Vasile Sirli), Best Sound (Tudor Petre, Cristinel Sirli, Cristian Tarnovetchi, Florin Tabacaru), Best Makeup and Hair (Dana Roseanu, Minela Popa, Ionel Popa, Doina Popa), and Best Arrangement (Catalin Cristutiu).
Somewhere in Palilula tells the story of a doctor sent to work in a small town that can’t be located on the map, who finds himself in a world where all the patients are healthy and the local population live in a constant state of drunkenness, feasting and orgies. The film marks the debut of acclaimed theatre director Silviu Purcarete.
New kid on the block
Director Gabriel Achim received the Best Debut award for Adalbert’s Dream, a comedy about a workplace incident around the time of Steaua Bucuresti’s 1986 European Cup victory. Embracing the Romanian New Wave, Adalbert’s Dream is marked by black humor, a focus on the absurdities of life under the last years of the Communist regime, a realistic style, slow pace and pared down aesthetic. But the film also harks back further into local cinema history, with an homage to Reconstruction, the seminal 1968 Lucian Pintilie movie in which the reconstruction of a trivial scrap between two boys, filmed for the public edification, escalates into a far worse catastrophe than the original incident.
Director Adrian Sitaru was awarded for the Best Short Movie. The Party/Chefu’ tells the story of Neli, a woman who goes to Bucharest for a few days, leaving Dan, her 17-year-old son, home alone. On her return, her neighbors rush to greet her with gossip about a party that Dan had organized in her absence. Soon after, Neli and Dan’s reunion creates a different perspective on her views of her friends from the block.
Director Ivana Mladenovic took the Best Documentary prize for Turn off the Lights, which follows three young men recently released from prison. Among them is Alex, a captivating figure who charismatically addresses his past with a disturbingly blasé attitude toward violence, women and guilt. Offering a rare peek into contemporary Roma culture, the three ex-cons try to reconcile the outside world with the gray areas of morality with which they struggle.
Photo courtesy of Doru Oprisan