The Romanian films of 2020 – Premieres & Awards
2020 hasn’t been an easy year for the artistic sector in Romania. As for film production, it was put on hold for a good period of the year, and afterwards film projects have resumed but only in compliance with strict conditions, in accordance with the measures imposed by the authorities. Movie theaters still remain closed in almost the entire country, and many film premieres have been postponed for 2021.
However, Romanian cinema and film events continued to surprise through memorable festivals, adapted to hybrid editions or held entirely live, following considerable efforts, as well as through exceptional films, which gained quite the international recognition. Today, we look back at some of the most praised premieres of this year:
Acasa, My Home (dir. Radu Ciorniciuc)
The documentary tells the story of a family composed of nine children and their parents, at a time when they are forced to give up on their home in the wilderness of the Vacaresti Delta in Bucharest and to adapt to life in the city.
The film had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival, where it received the Special Award of the Jury for Cinematography in the World Cinema Documentary competition. Among other distinctions are: Golden Horn – Best Feature-Length Documentary (Krakow Film Festival), Human Rights Award (Sarajevo Film Festival), Best Feature Film (Romanian Days Award, Transilvania IFF), Viktor Award (DOK.International, Munich), Special Jury Award (Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival), Big stamp, FIPRESCI Prize, Youth Jury (ZagrebDox), Special Mention (Zurich Film Festival, International Documentary Film). Also, Acasă, My Home becomes the first Romanian debut documentary film that has ever been nominated for the European Film Academy Awards (EFA).
Malmkrog (dir. Cristi Puiu)
Based on a work by 19th-century Russian philosopher Vladimir Sololyov – War and Christianity: Three Conversations, the director drowns the viewer in a dense philosophical and controversial debate held between the five characters who meet to spend Christmas together.
Presented in world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, Malmkrog has received quite the international recognition, both for its presence at festivals and for its critical acclaim. Distinctions include the Encounters Award – Best Director at the Berlinale, Best Screenplay and Golden Giraldillo at the Seville European Film Festival, and nominations at the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival (Best Film Award), Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad” (Golden Listapad Grand Prix), Transilvania International Film Festival (Best Feature).
Uppercase Print (dir. Radu Jude)
The highly-expected film by director Radu Jude had its international premiere on February 22, 2020 at the Berlin Film Festival. The film is a dramatization of a real story, more precisely the story of Mugur Calinescu, a teenager detained and interrogated by the secret police during the Romanian communist period, as a result of some protest messages against the dictatorial regime he wrote on walls.
The film was selected at international festivals such as IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival, Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad”, Thessaloniki Film Festival and TIFF.
Everything Will Not Be Fine (dir. Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu)
After ending a long-term relationship, a half-blind filmmaker born in 1986, and whose mother blames his illness on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, leaves behind his life in Romania and travels to find other people who might have been affected by it. He falls in love with a young Ukrainian woman and his life takes an unforeseen turn.
It premiered in Romania at the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF), where it won the FIPRESCI prize and was nominated for Best Feature Film. It was also awarded in the national competition of the Odessa International Film Festival with the Best Film and the Best Director.
The Exit of Trains (dir. Adrian Cioflanca, Radu Jude)
An essay documentary composed entirely of archive photographs and documents of the first big massacre of the Jews in Romania: the Iasi Pogrom, where over 10,000 Jews were killed.
It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was awarded at the Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival with Special Mention in the Truth Award section.
Poppy Field (dir. Eugen Jebeleanu)
The film follows a day in the life of Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer), a young gendarme from Bucharest. While his long-distance French boyfriend, Hadi, is visiting him, Cristi is called in for an intervention at a movie theatre, where an ultra-nationalist, homophobic group has interrupted the screening of a queer film.
Poppy Field had its premiere at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best First Feature. Conrad Mericoffer (Cristi) received the Jury Prize for Best Actor at the Torino Film Festival and the AISGE Award for Best Actor at the Gijón International Film Festival.
Wood (dir. Michaela Kirst, Monica Lazurean-Gorgan, Ebba Sinzinger)
An environmental spy infiltrates the global syndicate for illegal timber trading. With the aid of a hidden camera he documents the chain of illegal activities, from harvesting of the wood to the marketing of “washed” products in supermarkets.
The documentary premiered at CPH: DOX, where it was nominated for the F:ACT Award and won the Special Mention at the Zurich Film Festival.
Holy Father (dir. Andrei Dascalescu)
When he finds out that he will be a father, the director embarks on a journey to reconnect with his own father, whom he hasn’t seen since childhood and who is now a monk on Mount Athos.
It premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Heart of Sarajevo – Best Documentary and won the Special Jury Prize – Documentary Film.
Servants (dir. Ivan Ostrochovský)
Servants, a co-production with Romanian participation, tells the story of two students of a theological seminary in totalitarian Czechoslovakia, who are forced to make a difficult decision, which will affect their future. It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Encounters Award.
The film has received strong recognition at festivals such as the Valladolid International Film Festival (Ribera del Duero Award, Best Director), Odesa International Film Festival (Special Jury Mention, International Program), Ghent International Film Festival (Georges Delerue Prize, Best Original Music and Sound Design), Festival International de Film Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Prix de la mise en scène, Best Direction).
In addition to the list, we must mention those films that had their international premiere in 2019, but had a considerable impact in 2020, both in Romania and abroad:
Collective (dir. Alexandru Nanau)
The tragedy that took place in 2015 at the Colectiv club in Bucharest is brought back to the public’s attention by the documentary with the same name that uncovers the real story about corruption, lies and deceptions that ultimately lead to the death of innocent people.
Collective is certainly the documentary with the greatest impact among the public in 2020, not only in Romania but also abroad, winning awards at festivals such as Zurich Film Festival (Golden Eye, Best International Documentary Film), Sofia International Film Festival (Special Jury Award, International Documentary Competition), Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival (Truth Award), Luxembourg City Film Festival (Documentary Award), Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad” (Grand Prix Documentary), Montclair Film Festival (Bruce Sinofsky Prize – Special Jury Prize, Pursuit of Justice). Also, the documentary is Romania’s proposal for the 2021 Oscars and is nominated for the European Film Academy Awards (EFA)
Ivana the Terrible (dir. Ivana Mladenović)
The director invites friends, family and former lovers to play themselves in this dramatization flitting between fiction and documentary.
Ivana the Terrible premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize – Filmmakers of the Present, and its festival circuit included Reykjavík International Film Festival, Belgrade Film Festival, Odesa International Film Festival and, of course, the Transilvania International Film Festival, where it was awarded with the Special Mention – Best Debut in the Romanian Days section.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale (dir. Anca Damian)
An accident causes a little dog to remember all of the masters it loved unconditionally. The film had its international premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and was also selected at the Bucheon International Animation Film Festival, Dublin International Film Festival, Gijón International Film Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Transilvania International Film Festival. Marona’s Fantastic Tale received nominations for the European Film Awards and the Gopo Awards.
Legacy (dir. Dorian Boguta)
When a famous pianist is reported missing, the police officer investigating the disappearance gradually discovers an unusual life, full of bizarre decisions and relationships.
Among the festivals where the film was presented are the International Festival du Film Francophone de Namur, Cottbus Film Festival of Young East European Cinema, Transilvania International Film Festival (Romanian Film Days Award for Debut).
We conclude with other memorable productions that had their world or international premiere this year and which we hope to see next year in local cinemas: Us Against Us (dir. Andra Tarara), House of Dolls (dir. Tudor Platon), Mia Misses Her Revenge (d. Bogdan Theodor Olteanu ), Otto the Barbarian (dir. Ruxandra Ghitescu), Lost Kids on the Beach (dir. Alina Manolache), The Delta of Bucharest (dir. Eva Pervolovici), Toni & Friends (dir. Ion Indolean), Please Hold the Line (dir. Pavel Cuzuioc).