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October 23, 2021

Verdict: Romanian cinema, whereto?

Just when you thought you couldn’t have it worse than this year’s Oscar ceremony, a new low was hit on Monday evening by the fourth edition of Gopo awards, the Romanian film industry’s annual prizes. If one had to find a word for it, this would be “cheap imitation” of Hollywood clichés. If, apparently, Romanian filmmaking has managed to find a voice for itself, which is and will be for a while, considered exotic and thus “good” by international critics, then the industry itself needs to find its own voice, instead of “parroting” traditions of more developed industries worldwide.

But, going beyond boredom and some tens of awkward moments, the evening turned out to be all about “Police, Adjective,” apparently the only notable film made last year in Romania. At least a 400- some of still active members of the Romanian industry considered it to be so. Overall, Corneliu Porumboiu’s film received six statuettes, from best film of the year, best director and best screenplay, best cinematography as well as best leading actor (Dragos Bucur) and best supporting actor (Vlad Ivanov). Corneliu Porumboiu himself got two statues for both directing and writing this film, who, although mysteriously enough, has an impressive body of awards under its belt ( Un Certain Regard jury prize and FIPRESCI prize in Cannes last year).

The filmmaker was justifiably overwhelmed and probably turned out to be the sole voice of reason of the whole evening. “I know you must have had enough of me. You have given me too many awards, already. I mean, there were much better film that didn’t even get nominated,” Porumboiu said in his accepting speech.

And seriously now, it is hard to understand how a majority from 400 people can choose to consider best film this two hour torture of a film. Some international critics have praised it, but I guess they were a bit bored with traditional storytelling. It is important however to see what viewers think of it. On the New York Times website, people deem it “cruel and unusual punishment, probably an efficient instrument used by military police to torture Guantanamo prisoners, in violation of the Geneva Convention.”

There were other better films made in Romania last year who should have been there on the stage as winners, at least films with a storyline, where you could see the actors’ faces.

The best film award was handed to Porumboiu by the Minister of Culture himself. “Critics are talking about a new wave of Romanian cinema, but I am certain there is no such thing as a new wave, I believe we are talking about an effervescent movie elite that has managed to get value through,” Kelemen Hunor said. Although highly disputable, this elite has managed to produce better stuff than what Porumboiu managed to do in his film, and it is sad that, still, in 2010 Romania, people with a lot more imagination and talent don’t manage to succeed in local industry, where snobbery and “ a search for unnecessary exoticism” are still keywords. In this film industry we are still calling national, only people with money like Corneliu Porumboiu, the son of a football club owner and successful businessman get through with their projects. And they subsequently end up in Cannes or Berlin, where they wave up a flag that is not fully theirs to wave. As merely a spectator (isn’t that art’s purpose, to please its viewer?), one would like to see more films that actually tell a story, that have something real, tangible and intelligent to say, not films that either fall in the “Communist exotic” category or in the “let’s shock and get awards” one.

It is high time, we, as a nation of spectators, stop hiding behind snobbery and claim for the right to be entertained with proper, well-done storytelling, made by honest filmmakers, from either the old or the new wave. Dear 21st century Romanian ‘auteurs’, just keep it simple and don’t forget, it is spectator your art is addressed at, not a lineup of festivals.

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