In an interview with AGERPRES at the Romanian Film Evenings festival on Iasi, eastern Romania, which current edition is dedicated to him, film director Cristian Mungiu says that in order for quality films to be still produced in Romania they should gain more in popularity.
He added that for the films not to be left only with the international fame gained by the generation of filmmakers which he also belongs to, the development of a cinema hall network for the running of the films is needed.
The Palme d’Or winner goes on to also mention the need for an increase in the Romanian public’s filmmaking education, meaning first of all the intellectuals that set the tone for public perceptions in the country. According to Mungiu, the intellectuals have to realise that the Romanian productions of the past two decades have gained international recognition because the people that made them were original as well as contemporary with the current way of making and understating films.
Mr Mungiu, the Romanian Film Evenings festival in Iasi is a collection of the best Romanian films. You are the marquee guest. Is this an honour to you?
I am glad twice over. First, because this anniversary event showcases my production of ten years ago, and then I am glad that the films here are said to be the best Romanian films, because I have had my contribution to this year’s section. I truly believe that, as far as the films of the past 10-15 years are concerned, the majority of the important productions of the so-called Romania’s New Cinema will run these days in Iasi, an opportunity that has not been that frequent. I am glad that that is possible here and now and I also enjoy this celebratory atmosphere. I have been quite anxious this evening watching the images that I had never seen before of the Cannes gala awards of ten years ago.
Given the current social context and economic developments, is it hard to make films that live up to the level of your performance?
Budget is not the problem in Romania. Let us not complain! We have the means to make say five, ten, 15 films a year. That is no problem! We cannot make blockbusters on Romanian budgets, but as it was possible ten years ago to make a film that went on to win a Palme d’Or, it should be possible anytime. The problem is managing to refresh what you have to say, to find another moment when the new wave of filmmakers can find the same ambition, the same sparkle and the same wish for an innovation in language, to feel the kind of competition that I believe used to be very stimulating to us. That is nothing plannable, I mean you cannot say let us develop a plan to win another Palme d’Or or to win an Oscar. The filmmakers should be honest to themselves, to the stories they tell, to think about cinema as the medium of their arts and consider whether or not they can innovate something, and then such rewards may or may not come up. Organisationally speaking, what is important to us right now is not related to film funding, which more or less works, but it is related to how we distribute them. It is important for Romanian films to gain more in popularity that currently enjoyed and to do that it is essential for us to be able to rebuild the cinema hall system. As long as you have no possibility of distribution, as used to be the case when there were 400 halls, it is very hard to expect the same results as before 1989.
There has been talk of the condition of the artist, of actors. Are you unhappy with the current condition of the artist?
That is something normal in today’s society. We are mistaking popularity for value. It is normal for people appearing on television, whether presenting the weather or as part of scandal shows, to have their popularity. That is not the problem. The problem is understanding that when we consume arts we have to be prepared, to have a certain level of education that will allow us to be reverential to this art.
Do we have such level of education?
We do, to a certain extent, to another extent we cannot demand filmmakers and culture to surpass the general level there is in other areas as well. Arts and the understating of the Romanian filmmaking – to keep myself to our field – are at the general level we have, meaning we are making progress, but, in order to do so, a plan, structure and education are needed and some long-term programmes. Filmmaking has never been fully understood as art making in Romania because it is based on an infamy dating back to the communist era, when films were very much used a propaganda tools. We need a new understanding of this art and we need it to come as recognition from intellectuals, who, by doing so set an understanding trend. Our intellectuals have never been much of cinemagoers. Let us hope that will change sometime and that a generation of intellectuals arises that will have enough filmmaking education to understand that the main reason for our international fame relates to a certain modernism. We managed at a given time to be contemporary with a manner of understanding filmmaking, being original, and for that we received well-deserved esteem. Managing to propagate it among Romanian filmgoers would be all the more admirable to us.
What are your medium and long-term plans?
For the time being, I am producing some films. We are producing and coproducing three films this year. We will make one of them next week. It will be the long-feature debut of Ioana Uricaru. Afterwards, this summer, we have an important French production featuring American actors, an English-language film, and I am glad to be coproducers for the project. Being able to contribute to such a big-budget film is very important to the Romanian filmmaking industry. And then we have a personal project, which the film company I started ten years ago will be making, that involves another young filmmaker. I am somehow investing attention in the youngest filmmakers and, now and then, I am preparing for my future projects, of which I will be talking when they get coalesced.