From a “medieval spaghetti western” to a “propagandistic musical comedy”, from queer cinema to biting satire: as part of Europalia Romania, Cinematek and Cinema Galeries are offering an exhaustive retrospective of Romanian cinema. We discuss the programme with curator Andrei Tǎnǎsescu.
From 6 December until 2 February, more than fifty films offer a detailed perspective on Romania’s social, cultural and political life. Spanning several decades, the programme starts in the fifties and passes through Ceaușescu’s dictatorial regime, the 1989 revolution and its aftermath.
Through cinema, Romanian filmmakers have tried to deal with the country’s complex past, with many films focusing on collective traumas, painful taboos, and the toughness of life under the Communist regime. Thanks to the extensive programme, we can dive into this reality with immediacy and ease. Curator Andrei Tǎnǎsescu guides us through the varied programme.
What are the most important topics of these films?
ANDREI TǍNǍSESCU: The main programme, which is taking place at Cinematek, will be broken down into smaller programs, which tackle everything from family portraits, existential angst, and genre films, all the way to works that express or subvert the socialist propaganda of Communist Romania.
At Cinema Galeries, the thematic selection was further defined in two sections: “Negotiating History” and “Traditional Loves”. The first one proposes double-bills through which audiences can discover different ways in which similar topics were covered at different points in time. “Traditional Loves” explores Romania’s recent development of queer cinema, juxtaposing three contemporary LGBTQ films with three “classic” films that question traditional, normative relationships in Romanian society.
Which movies in particular do you recommend to see, and why?
TǍNǍSESCU: I would encourage everyone to see them all, of course, but if I had to pick and choose, I would suggest audiences a “sampler” of various genres. Our Director is a comedy classic of 1950s cinema that pokes fun at Communist bureaucracy and the ideal of productivity. I Do Not Care if We go Down in History as Barbarians is an important history lesson on Romania’s complicity in the Holocaust. It is also a biting satire about the (im)possibility of representing history on screen, and about power dynamics at play. And Touch Me Not was the first Romanian film ever to win the Golden Bear and Best Debut awards at the Berlin Film Festival.
Why should we go and see these movies?
TǍNǍSESCU: I strongly believe that the language of cinema transcends borders, and that it is one of the art forms that enables audiences to understand a culture. But even more than wanting to be a cultural window onto a country, the programme presents cinema classics and hidden gems from the Romanian New Wave. You can discover a rich tradition of cinema that stands well alongside its European contemporaries. Plus, how many chances will you get to see a “medieval spaghetti Western” (The Immortals) alongside a football documentary essay (The Second Game), a propagandistic musical comedy (I Don’t Want to Get Married) and a heartbreaking family drama (Snapshot around the Family Table)?
Moreover, a perfect introduction to contemporary Romanian cinema will be presented on December 9 and 10 at RITCS, with lectures and screenings of short films and documentaries. Also unmissable is the book launch of Romanian Cinema Inside-Out, on 13 December at Cinematek.
Some movies tackle subjects such as socialism or capitalist inequalities through a comical perspective. Do you think that irony is an effective means to understand and exorcize our history and our past?
TǍNǍSESCU: Comedy has always made life’s bitter pills easier to swallow, and served as an important tool for criticism. Dark humour and its wiser cousin, irony, have always been inherent to Romanian culture. They are the most efficient ways to place a mirror in front of ourselves and our past in order to bring out the self-awareness that is necessary for constructive change. This can be seen in many of the Communist-era films, which used humour and irony as subversive methods of questioning the ideology at the time.