2021, as it happened in Romanian film | The State of Cinema

9 December, 2021

Running through what has happened over the course of the year in December might come across as a knee-jerk reflex, sure, but if there ever was a year worthy of being jotted down in detail, that was 2021 – a year in which Romanian filmmakers and films managed to reap historical victories, having a consistent presence in all the important international forums dedicated to the seventh art; but also a year in which, beyond the cheer and enthusiasm elicited by these news which were coming in after such a terrible year like 2020, cinemas continued to open and close back as the merciless winds of the pandemic blew over the country, caught in the middle of politicians’ strategies and pulling spectators, cinema workers and managers, festival organizers and institutions in the fray.

The below timeline does not set out to touch upon the totality of relevant events that happened in Romanian and global cinema in 2021, but I do believe that such a summary is the kind that proves itself to be useful not at the moment of its writing, but in the future. An ideal future in which this piece will be rediscovered by critics, researchers and readers who will wish to look back upon this oft complex and contradictory year, torn between the remarkable international success of Romanian cinema and the situation back home, which was destabilized by the pandemic. I will present these events without commenting upon them – maybe I’ll do that some other time – and I will let the simple fact of juxtaposing them, as if they were in a montage, speak by itself.


Although certain cinemas in the country have already been open since early December, at the end of the month, the halls in Bucharest are reopened for the first time in four months, with a maximum capacity of 30%.


collective, director Alexander Nanau’s multi-award-winning documentary, shortlisted for two Academy Award categories – Best Documentary Film and Best International Film.

The first part of the 50th edition of Rotterdam Film Festival, the one helmed entirely by Kaludjercic, takes place entirely online – where Maat Means Land by Fox Maxy, Sunsets, everyday by Basir Mahmood and Terranova by Alejandro Pérez Serrano and  Alejandro Alonso Estrella share the festival’s grand prize, the Ammodo Tiger Award. During the second part of the festival, in June, Sarra Tsorakidis’ Kaimos will be featured in the festival’s short film showcase.

The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins in Romania. Cinemas and halls are once again gradually starting to close all across the country, depending on local indicators, little over a month after reopening.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, by Radu Jude.


collective writes history, becoming the first Romanian film in history to be nominated for the Academy Awards, obtaining both nominations it had been shortlisted for.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn by Radu Jude premieres in the Official Competition of the Berlinale, being the filmmaker’s second film to achieve this performance – and ends up winning the grand prize of the festival, the Golden Bear. A second Golden Bear, the one for Best Short Film, goes to the Moldovan filmmaker Olga Lucovnica, the director of My Uncle Tudor.


Cradle, the newest animation by Cluj-based filmmaker Paul Mureșan, is selected in the Online Competition of the Oberhausen short film festival, where it wins the Special Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

Cinemas remain closed throughout the country.


Given the decrease in the number of coronavirus cases, cinemas across the country reopen at the end of the month. Halls are allowed to run at 70% capacity.

Fast & Furious 9 is released in cinemas on the 25th of June, then going on to become the highest-grossing film of the year in Romania – with revenues of over 9.1 million lei according to Cinemagia, of which almost a third of its box-office gains in the first week. For measure, it made as much money as the next two films in the top rank, combined – Luca (4.4 million lei) and Dune (4.2 million lei).

collective, by Alexander Nanau.
collective, by Alexander Nanau.


The Gopo Awards take place at the end of the month – where collective win Best Film and Best Direction (for Alexander Nanau), and all four performance awards go to actors featured in Dan Chișu’s 5 Minutes Too Late: Mihai Călin, Diana Cavallioti, Emanuel Pârvu and Elvira Deatcu. The edition’s “Young Hope” Award goes to director Alma Buhagiar.

Documentary film festival One World Romania returns to the cinemas in Bucharest with its 14th edition, the last edition during Andrei Rus’ tenure as artistic director. The festival hosts the world premiere of Raluca Durbacă’s found footage debut, The Certainty of Probabilities. Both of the festival’s juries – the international one, as well as the festival’s trademark High School Students Jury – award their highest distinctions to Vision Nocturna, directed by Chilean filmmaker Carolina Moscoso Briceño.

The first edition of Moldova Film Festival takes place in Iași. Sașa and Petre, directed by Luca Istodor, wins the festival’s inaugural Romanian short film competition.


The Cannes Film Festival is back in full swing, after the spectator- and award-free edition of 2020, with a jury led by legendary director Spike Lee, who is also the image of this edition. His jury awards the Palme d’Or to Titane, by Julia Ducournau, thus turning the French filmmaker into the second woman in history to ever win the most important award of the international festival circuit. Simultaneously, Romania has a historical presence at the festival, with no less than five films scattered throughout the parallel events taking place on the Croisette: La Civil, by Teodora Ana Mihai (in Un Certain Regard, where she wins the “Prize of Courage”), Love Stories on the Move, by Carina Dașoveanu (in Cinéfondation, where she wins the 3rd Prize), Întregalde, by Radu Muntean, and When Night Meets Dawn, by Andreea-Cristina Borțun (in Quinzaine des Réalisateurs), as well as Intercom 15, by Andrei Epure (Semaine de la Critique).

TIFF celebrates its 20th edition by returning to the cinemas in Cluj, boasting a record number of Romanian films in its selection – no less than 45 local films, 32 of which are features, and 13 shorts. The Transilvania Trophy goes to The Whaler Boy, the debut film by the Russian filmmaker Philipp Yuryev, while Ruxandra Ghițescu’s Otto the Barbarian wins the main award of the Romanian Film Days, and When Night Meets Dawn wins the competition’s Best Romanian Short Film Award.

When Night Meets Dawn
When Night Meets Dawn, by Andreea-Cristina Borțun.


The Locarno Film Festival, arriving at its 74th edition, takes place for the first time under the artistic direction of Giona Nazzaro. The Golden Leopard is won by Indonesian filmmaker Edwin, with Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash. A new short film signed by Radu Jude, Caricaturana, is presented in the new subsection of Pardi di Domani, Concorso Corti d’autore.

The 27th edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival also takes place, with Things Worth Weeping For, the feature-length debut of Romanian-Hungarian filmmaker Cristina Groșan, running in the festival’s main competition. Alexandru Mironescu’s Summer Planning wins the award for Best Student Film, and The Same Dream, directed by Vlad Petri, receives the jury’s Special Mention in the festival’s documentary film competition.

The 13th edition of the Filmul de Piatra short film festival takes place after a 1-year hiatus. The jury, composed of Bogdan George Apetri, Alina Manolache and Daniel Sandu, awards the films Past 8 o’clock, by Alex Pintică (Best Fiction Film), Everything for Riana, by Mihai Dragolea (Best Documentary), and Thank You for The Teeth, by George ve Gänæaard and Horia Cucută (Best Animation).


Alina Grigore’s feature film debut, Blue Moon, wins the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Grigore thus becomes the first Romanian filmmaker in history to win the festival’s top award, as well as the fourth woman in history to achieve this feat. The festival’s selection also features Mikado, actor Emanuel Pârvu’s sophomore feature.

The 78th edition of the Venice Film Festival takes place, where Audrey Diwa’s Happening wins the Golden Lion, awarded by a jury which also features director Alexander Nanau. Plastic Semiotic, yet another short film by Radu Jude, is presented out of competition, and Bogdan George Apetri’s Miracle is featured in the festival’s Orizzonti side-bar. Immaculate, by Monica Stan and George-Chiper Lillemark, screens at the Giornate Degli Autori and wins the Lion of the Future award.

Sibiu’s Astra Documentary Film Festival takes place in a hybrid edition – with Andra Tarara’s Us Against Us winning the Romanian competition’s main award, and Olga Lucovnica receiving the award for Best Director, for Nanu Tudor.

The first print issue of the Films in Frame magazine hits newsstands all across the country.

Authorities impose a mandatory check of COVID green passes at the entrance in cinemas, amid the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. They also limit the capacity of cinemas down to 50%.

You are Ceaușesu to Me, by Sebastian Mihăilescu.


Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is designated as Romania’s proposal for the Academy Awards.

Andrei Ujică presents a finalized version of his 2 Pasolini, initially released in 2000, at the 59th edition of the New York Film Festival, together with La Nature by Artavazd Pelechian, which he worked on as a producer. (On this occasion, he accidentally meets Paul McCartney, who, quite naturally, is one of the heroes of his highly anticipated film about the Beatles’ first concert in America, Things We Said Today.)

Sebastian Mihailescu’s debut feature, You Are Ceauşescu To Me, has its world premiere at the Ji.hlava Film Festival, where it wins the awards for Best Direction and Best Documentary from Central and Eastern Europe. The festival also hosts an ample retrospective of pre-1989 Romanian experimental shorts, commissioning a digitized version of Mircea Săucan’s The Alert.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is set into motion. Despite initial confusions regarding what kind of measures the authorities will take with respect to the activity of cinemas and other performance venues, it is ultimately decided that they will continue to remain open at a capacity of 30%, ceasing all activity after 9 PM.

The 12th edition of Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest takes place.

Director Corneliu Porumboiu and producer Ada Solomon are indicted by DIICOT (the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism), “for committing the crimes of tax evasion, setting up an organized criminal group and money laundering”. The news outrages the local film industry, which, for the most part, decides to stand in solidarity with the two filmmakers, after it is revealed that one of the objects of the investigation is an invoice worth 200 lei (approx. 40 Euro). Both of them strenuously deny the accusations.


The 11th edition of the BIEFF experimental film festival takes place in Bucharest. The top prize of the festival goes to When Night Meets Dawn, while the Romanian competition is won by Bogdan Balla’s I Was Sleepwalking When I Saw All Those Colors.

Snowing darkness, Gabriel Achim’s newest feature film, has its premiere at Tallinn Black Nights.


See you again next year with The State of Cinema. Thank you for joining us as readers during the column’s first year – and all that I can ever wish is that the end of this year will be as peaceful, gentle and kind as possible for you.

Film critic & journalist. Collaborates with local and international outlets, programs a short film festival - BIEFF, does occasional moderating gigs and is working on a PhD thesis about home movies. At Films in Frame, she writes the monthly editorial - The State of Cinema and is the magazine's main festival reporter.