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The Romanians 30 Years of Cinema Revolution January 30 - May 2: Announcing the full schedule


The American Romanian Cultural Society is proud to announce the full schedule of The Romanians: 30 Years of Cinema Revolution! Presented in partnership with Making Waves in NY, Northwest Film Forum, and SIFF.

Spanning the 30 years since the 1989 Romanian Revolution, this comprehensive showcase is curated by Making Waves and presents titles from the recent history of Romanian cinema, among which are a selection of films that have never been screened before in Seattle. 

In the 1990s, directors who found themselves freed from the tyranny of censorship rushed out in the open to tell stories from the recent past. In the following two decades, younger directors went back in time on their own terms and came up with a fresh perspective on the communist era. Even when they chronicled the present in sharp slices of life, the dark shadows of the past still permeated their contemporary stories, like familiar ghosts.

In 2005, a three hour-long black comedy about a dying man, The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (dir. Cristi Puiu), was part of the birth of an artistic revolution that ignited an ever-growing international interest in an outstanding generation of filmmakers. It also triggered the rediscovery of past highlights which offered a genealogy for what critics came to call the Romanian New Wave.

Newer films dig into the more distant though equally relevant past, and there is also escapism, mostly in genre formats. But despite its apparent diversity, this vast retrospective works best as a history lesson served in the most entertaining form: movies. 

TOP IMAGE: Niki and Flo, Dir. by Lucian Pintilie 
FOLLOWING IMAGES (L-R): The Oak, Dir. by Lucian Pintilie; Pororoca, Dir. by Constantin Popescu; Stuff and Dough, Dir. by Cristi Puiu; Soldiers: A Story from Ferentari, Dir. by Ivana Mladenović
Train of Life | Directed by Radu Mihăileanu | 1998 | 103 minutes | comedy/drama
January 30, 07:30 PM at Northwest Film Forum

The village fool of a small Jewish community warns his townsfolk that the Nazis are coming and suggests that they build a train so they can escape by deporting themselves. Some villagers are chosen to act as the Germans who will transport the rest to a concentration camp when in fact they are heading to Palestine via Russia. Often compared to Life is Beautiful as they’re both essentially comedies with a Holocaust touch, Romanian-born Mihăileanu’s second feature is a subversively entertaining fable that succeeds in creating a story in which optimism and fantasy coexist with dark reality, complete with the most provocative yet reverent ending. A Sundance Audience Award winner.

Snails’ Senator | Directed by Mircea Daneliuc | 1995 | 112 minutes | comedy | Festivals: Cannes 1995 – Official Competition
Januray 31, 4:30PM at SIFF Film Center

Senator Vîrtosu (Dorel Vișan) spends the weekend at a guesthouse formerly owned by the Communist Party, where in true Communist tradition, he’s presented with gifts from its employees and petitions from the local villagers. But his relaxing weekend is disrupted by a crew of Swiss journalists filming in the area. Vîrtosu cooperates with them, trying to make sure the reporters present his country favorably, while of course hiding certain details from them. This Cannes competition entry reframes Daneliuc’s 1980 The Cruise against the backdrop of a society in transition and adds apocalyptic and Dostoevskian accents to the depravity and penance of the main villain—the Communist Party activist turned member of a democratic parliament. Daneliuc’s film is a fierce political satire that thankfully doesn’t concern itself with delivering a positive image of Romania.

California Dreamin’ (Endless) | Directed by Cristian Nemescu | 2007 | 155 minutes | comedy | Festivals: Un Certain Regard Award Winner – Cannes 2007
Janary 31, 7:00PM at SIFF Film Center

A NATO gun shipment supervised by an American officer that’s scheduled to cross Romania via train during the Kosovo war of the late 1990s is blocked by a stubborn rural station official who objects to the lack of accompanying documents. What follows is an epic farce of carnivalesque proportions, touching on cultural misunderstanding, corruption, vengeance, and the American dream. “Its themes are serious, but they are addressed with a playful exuberance,” wrote A.O. Scott in The New York Times back in 2007. Today, revisiting Nemescu’s posthumous debut feature one thing’s for sure: the film’s seduction and electrifying rock ’n’ roll vitality—far removed from the stripped-down realism of most of New Romanian Cinema’s big hits—remain unaltered.

Stuff and Dough | Directed by Cristi Puiu | 2001 | 90 minutes | comedy/drama | Festivals: Cannes 2001 – Directors’ Fortnight, Thessaloniki 2001 – Best Actor (Alexandru Papadopol)
February 1, 3:30PM at SIFF Film Center

The “stuff” in this debut feature by The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu and Sieranevada director Cristi Puiu—one of the first examples of the post-Ceauşescu Romanian filmmaking renaissance—is a satchel full of black-market prescription drugs. The “dough” is 2,000 lei promised to small-town teen Ovidiu (Alexandru Papadopol) if he agrees to hand-carry the package to Bucharest on behalf of a local gangster (Răzvan Vasilescu). He does, inviting his slacker friend Vali (Dragoş Bucur) along for the ride, who in turn invites his apathetic girlfriend Bety (Ioana Flora). This unlikely trio then takes to the highway, and the hilariously deadpan road movie that results is a reminder that Puiu, who originally sought to become a painter, has cited a viewing of Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law as a key event in his decision to pursue filmmaking.

Niki and Flo | Directed by Lucian Pintilie | 2003 | 105 minutes | comedy | Festivals: Cannes 2003 – Directors’ Fortnight
February 1, 7:00PM at SIFF Film Center

A very black comedy, Niki and Flo is about ill-suited neighbors united by marriage. Angela and her husband have decided to leave Romania for a better life in the United States. Niki, Angela’s father, who is also a former colonel in the Romanian army, is torn between his wish to see his daughter happy and his desire to have her close by; meanwhile Flo, the father of Niki’s son-in-law and a domestic tyrant of sorts, slowly exerts his control over Niki. The screenplay was written by Cristi Puiu and Răzvan Rădulescu, who collaborated also on Stuff and Dough and The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu.

The Great Communist Robbery | Directed by Alexandru Solomon | 2004 | 75 minutes |  documentary | Festivals: Grand Prix, Mediawave Gyor, Hungary; Prize for Social Values, Documenta Madrid 2005
February 20, 7:30PM at Northwest Film Forum

A strange robbery at the Romanian National Bank in 1959 triggered a massive police search. When the alleged burglars were caught and arrested, they reenacted their crime for a television film in which they played themselves. Although evidence suggests the criminals believed they would be spared the death sentence by appearing in the film, their reality was otherwise. Described by director Alexandru Solomon as a “political detective story,” this documentary investigates both a historical mystery and the transformation of history into film.

Pororoca | Directed by Constantin Popescu | 2017 | 152 minutes | drama | | Festivals: 2017 San Sebastian – Best Actor, CPH:PIX, 2018 Rotterdam, Goteborg
March 27, 7:00PM at SIFF Film Center

It is every loving parent’s worst nightmare: the devastating disappearance of a beloved child, and then their desperate struggle to stay sane while trying to save their marriage. The long scene in which the little girl goes missing in a park full of people is a movie in itself, masterfully staged by Constantin Popescu (Tales from the Golden Age), and challenges us to pinpoint the exact moment when everything goes wrong. It makes for intense viewing that is only more visceral thanks to Bogdan Dumitrache’s raw performance playing the father consumed with obsession and guilt.

The Oak | Directed by Lucian Pintilie | 1992 | 105 minutes | drama | Festivals & Awards: Cannes 1992 (Official Selection, out of competition); 1992 New York FF; Best Actress (Maia Morgenstern) – 1992 Geneva & 1993 European Academy Awards/Felix Award for Best Actress of the Year
April 11, 7:30 PM at Northwest Film Forum

The Oak is an absorbing, complicated black comedy about Romania at the end of the Ceauşescu regime. A young schoolteacher named Nela embarks on a spiritual journey after the death of her father, a former government official, whose ashes she takes to toting in a coffee jar. On her wanderings through grotesque and often violent surroundings, she meets Mitică. The couple, like Tristan and Isolde at the gates of the Orient, cannot live out their love according to the rules. A series of events – floods, pollution, Mitică’s arrest, military maneuvers and massacres – split up our heroes, and reveal a context in which nothing works properly and everything seems to be falling apart.

The new 4K restoration has been made with the support of Fundația9 Romania through the Lucian Pintilie Cinema Fund.

Soldiers: A Story from Ferentari | Directed by Ivana Mladenović | 2017 | 119 minutes | drama | Festivals: Toronto, San Sebastian – Sebastiane Award (Special mention), CPH:PIX – Jury Special Mention
May 2, 7:30PM at Northwest Film Forum

An unexpected romance blossoms between two men amid a ramshackle Bucharest neighborhood in this tender, offbeat love story. When Adi, an anthropologist researching regional pop music, meets Alberto, a burly Roma ex-con, the two lonely souls enter into a relationship that tests the societal and moral taboos of their community. Documentarian Ivana Mladenović brings a wonderfully loose-limbed, vérité naturalism to her auspicious narrative debut, based on the eponymous book written by Adrian Schiop who plays himself in the movie. 

The Seattle-based non-profit American Romanian Cultural Society (ARCS) has the mission to create social change through film, art and education. With a focus on the Romanian heritage, ARCS promotes projects that build bridges between Eastern European cultures on the West Coast.

Since 2014, ARCS has been organizing the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle, a successful community building project in collaboration with Seattle International Film Festival. Hosted at SIFF Cinema Uptown, the event has been gathering around 2500 viewers of diverse cultural background each year.


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