Best Romanian films of 2021
What better occasion to present to you our top of best Romanian films of 2021, than the 1st of December – the national day? Apart from being a difficult, chaotic and confusing year, both socially and politically, we believe there’s one thing we could be proud of – Romania’s film industry had one of the best years ever, being nominated (and winning) at most of the major film festivals – starting with Berlinale in February and ending with Ji.hlava in November. This year marked our first major win at San Sebastian International Film Festival, where a Romanian female debutant won the Golden Shell for her film, Blue Moon, while Bogdan George Apetri has scored our first nomination in the main competition of Venice Film Festival in 12 years.
As every year, we are bringing you our (personal) top of the best Romanian films. Even if you might guess which are the two best films as they’ve been on everyone’s lips (yes, it’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn and Intregalde), there are still a few other titles we think you haven’t thought about, but we promise they are worthy of your time.
I have bad news and good news – the bad one is none of the films I have selected for this top has had a premiere in cinemas, all of them have been seen only in the international festival circuit – but each and every one of them will be released in cinemas in early 2022. The good news is that more than half of them are debuts. It’s been an extraordinary year for Romanian cinema and the joy is even bigger when you realize how many directors are at their first feature film – I must admit the feature sounds good.
In chronological order and each with a very short motivation:
- Immaculate (dir. Monica Stan & George Chiper-Lillemark) – for its authenticity, the impeccable acting, and Monica’s courage to say her story. A debut film that has won three big prizes at Venice Film Festival, this year.
- Marocco / Mikado (dir. Emanuel Pârvu) – a movie about moral responsibility, family and distrust and what happens when all three come together. Very well written and performed, Ana Indricau is a revelation.
- #dogpoopgirl (dir. Andrei Huțuleac) – for its ironic humor, so typical for Andrei, the way it made me laugh, only to make me cry minutes later; a very fresh (and real) perspective of the Romanian society presented in a very different way than the one we’ve been used to from other popular films.
- Blue Moon (dir. Alina Grigore) – an intense and brave debut film, with impeccable performances. Alina tackles a delicate subject with a lot of tactfulness, succeeding not only in directing a film but in inviting the public to introspection and dialogue.
- When Night Meets Dawn (short film, dir. Andreea Bortun) – probably the most exciting way of playing with form that I have seen in a long time in the Romanian cinema; and if short filmmaking is not the place for such tryouts, then what is?
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude) – a telling cry about the lack of meaning in pretty, well-rounded films that are all-so-flattering towards the cinematic dispositif, given the times that we are living in.
- È pericoloso sporgersi (dir. Nae Caranfil, 1993), presented in a restored version: an unchallengeable classic, due to its courage of presenting an almost abstract logic of the communist’s ways; like an old can by Andy Warhol.
I choose three predictable favorites, even though neither one has fully convinced me:
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude) – where the main character, an atrocious and ferocious professor turns into Wonder Woman, catching all the parents in the lasso of her mythological whip, abandoning them as they scream in agony; such a pity this campy silliness cannot be found in other films
- Intregalde (dir. Radu Muntean) – for the clasist abashment in which these young, free, beautiful young people find themselves in, while caught in the mud, looking for a senile old man reminiscing of a ghost. Radu Muntean creates a narrative mined field and you have no idea where and when it will explode
- Poppy Field (dir. Eugen Jebeleanu) – especially for its first half, which I found very intimate and uncomfortable, regarding the openness of a man that either suppresses his instincts, or discreetly unleashes them.
Out of all the films released in cinemas in 2021, the two main titles I pick are Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude) and Intregalde (Radu Muntean). The first one I enjoyed due to its unexpected and unconventional form and for the way it surprises the times we live in. The second one I appreciated for the precision, patience and lack of flashiness with which it questions our best intentions. They are both films with a moral that talks about hypocrisy in many ways. I also have two favourites from the list of films launched in 2021 in film festivals only: Blue Moon (Alina Grigore) for its great energy and Immaculate (Monica Stan & George Chiper-Lilemark) for the induced tension. Both are debuts that discuss in a very direct manner different types of abuse against young females and that bring to the big screen two promising actresses: Ioana Chitu and Ana Dumitrascu.
Without any further comments, the top is:
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude)
- Intregalde (dir. Radu Muntean)
- Immaculate (dir. Monica Stan & George Chiper-Lillemark) and Blue Moon (dir. Alina Grigore)
In chronological order:
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude)
- When Night Meets Dawn (dir. Andreea-Cristina Borțun)
- Poppy Field (dir. Eugen Jebeleanu)
Rather than writing about each of these films, which I find very important within the history of contemporary Romanian cinema, due to various reasons – international visibility, formal/aesthetic innovation, political relevance, the mastery proven by each of these directors, the role that these films play in the local cinema industry – I would just briefly say that despite the chaos of 2020, we are probably living through the best age that Romanian cinema has experienced at least since 2016, if not, even 2010.
Conrad Mericoffer in ”Poppy Field”
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude)*
- Intregalde (dir. Radu Muntean)*
- Miracle (dir. George Bogdan Apetri) – because it is not just a rare piece of a trilogy in Romanian cinema (Miracle borrows characters from the director’s previous film – Unidentified), but also a rare genre film. It has a stake, smart dialogue, a very good performance by Emanuel Parvu and a climax I might never forget.
*Besides their form, genre and the directors’ accomplishments, these two films provoked me to look into the mirror and ask myself if I like what I see.
- Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (dir. Radu Jude) – because I never tire of seeing Radu Jude exiting form(s); in search of an in-form cinema.
- Football (short film, dir. Bogdan Alexandru) – I was never attached by the kind of street-level cinema that was practiced by Nemescu; one could feel a squawk in every one of his shots. In fact, I would argue that Bogdan Alexandru’s student short is one of the few ones who understand the vibe of the street corner, its cautionary tales, the gimmicks of the hood. And it’s not a small feat to sit next to Stuff and Dough. An idea in every shot – that’s the secret uncovered by Godard in order to explain the artistic success of Adolfas Mekas’ debut, Hallelujah the Hills (1963). And secrets have to circulate. I’m happy that this one reached B.A.
- Întregalde (dir. Radu Muntean) – it seems to me that Muntean is still holding onto a fire that has not yet been extinguished, but which is blown out by the enthusiasm for other films before the fire gets to set the critics alight. It’s clear that Întregalde doesn’t have much to do with the most exciting things happening right now in Romanian cinema, but it still is a lesson in virtuosity. The problem with these headmasters – Puiu amongst them – is that we’re ready to get a zero for conduct.