Friday, February 13, 2009

Fest showcases Romania's next film wave

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Romanian cinema is hot and, as the second annual Toronto Romanian Film Festival reveals, its talent roster goes far beyond the celebrated films of festival-circuit darlings and Cannes prize-winners Cristian Mungiu ( 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Cristi Puiu ( The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) and Corneliu Porumboiu ( 12:08 East of Bucharest).

Does the current flowering of Romanian cinema constitute a new wave? Anyone who caught TRFF's inaugural edition last year, which concentrated on the “wave” and its influences, would have noticed thematic and stylistic connections. The compelling and assured features and shorts by new and emerging Romanian filmmakers on offer this weekend certainly up the ante.

This year, organizers have focused on filmmakers who have been overlooked so far by North American media. Friday night's festival opener, Boogie (7 p.m., Bloor), is about a successful young businessman who, during a seaside vacation with his pregnant wife and young son, unexpectedly spends the night with two high-school friends. While the film has many of the stylistic turns associated with the new wave, director Radu Muntean eschews the irony, black humour and dark themes common to many new-wave films.

A comparative jolt, Adrian Sitaru's gloriously ragged feature debut Hooked (Sunday, 9 p.m., Bloor Cinema) follows a teacher and his lover who, while driving to the countryside for a picnic, accidentally hit a young prostitute named Ana. At first, they think they've killed her, but she recovers and they invite her along. In the span of a few hours, the wily Ana plays one lover against the other, affecting their already precarious relationship. Award-winning actor Maria Dinulescu, who plays Ana, will be present at the screening for a Q&A.

Saturday is mostly dedicated to documentary, a genre in which Romania filmmakers are starting to gain recognition. The centrepiece feature, Cold Waves, is Alexandru Solomon's stylish, fascinating examination of the important role Radio Free Europe's Romanian programming played during the Ceausescu era. Solomon, whose previous doc, The Great Communist Bank Robbery, was a 2004 fest fave, will attend the post-screening Q&A.

New features on offer Sunday afternoon include George Dorobantu's award-winning Elevator (3 p.m., Innis Town Hall), “the event of the year in Romanian cinema,” according to one critic, and Take (6 p.m., Innis), about the complications that arise when a gravedigger discovers he has two months to live and starts planning his lavish burial.

The Toronto Romanian Film Festival runs Feb. 13-15 at the Bloor Cinema (526 Bloor St. W.) and Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex Ave.) Tickets are $15/$10 for students (www.toroartsgroup.com).

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