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Our verdict of 22nd Transylvania International Film Festival

DMovies attends one of the largest, most exciting, diverse and fast-growing festivals of Eastern Europe for the second year; here are the biggest highlights

Founded in 2002, the Transylvania International Film Festival (also known as Tiff Romania) has quickly become the largest such event in Romania, and one of the best-known film festivals of the region. The action takes place yearly during 10 days in Cluj Napoca, the vibrant and bohemian capital of Transylvania. The place is easily reachable by land or by air from most major European countries. Each edition attracts more than 100,000 film lovers and industry pundits from more than 50 countries, with its rich programme of 250 movies (including open-air screenings in the city’s main square Piata Unirii, pictured below, as well as other strategic locations inside the city and its vicinities), concerts, and art exhibitions.

Last year, the Festival showcased solidarity with its Ukrainians neighbours by conveying an equivocal anti-war message. This year, the Official Competition included 11 films from different countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Iranian drama about a child who goes mysteriously mute Like a Fish on the Moon (Dornaz Hajiha) took home the Transylvania Trophy, the event’s top prize. Best Director went to Brazilian director Carolina Marcowicz of Charcoal, a very dark comedy about a family of peasants who agree to harbour a dangerous drug lord. The Audience Award went to gently political slapstick comedy Carbon (Ian Bors), about the “Drunk War” of Transnistria, in neighbouring Moldova (a country very closely associated to Romania, with a nearly identical language and flags). There were various other strands, including a documentary, a music and many non-competitive movies. Special guests included American firebrand Oliver Stone, ultra-violent Mexican helmer Michel Franco, Australian actor Geoffrey Rush and British thespian Timothy Spall.

I attended the Festival for six days, watched 13 films from various sections and reviewed each one of them exclusively for you. You can see all of them in our review archive. My dirty favourites were Mark Fletcher’s Patrick and the Whale (a nature doc about the profound affection between a human and a cetacean), Vlad Petri’s “false” documentary Between Revolutions (about the “confiscation” of revolutions in Iran and in Romania), Alberto Gastesi Stillness in the Storm (a Basque film about unrequited love, with a touch of Truffaut and Hong Sang-soo), Paul Negoescu’s endearing comedy Another Lottery Ticket (a Romanian movie about three man treasure-hunting in the cryptocurrency world), and indeed the Brazilian flick Charcoal. For me, the biggest misfire was Werner Herzog’s Theatre of Thought, a mostly disjointed doc about the brain.

In between the many films and toiling at the press centre, I still found time to enjoy the cafes and restaurants that dot the city, and took a short field trip to the charming countryside town of Margau (courtesy of the Festival). Friday night is a particularly busy one, with vast swathes of young crowds taking over the quaint streets and boulevards of the Old Town. There is no shortage of decent food options at very accessible prizes. Try the beef goulash, the pork stew, pork greaves and lard, and the sausages, or the stuffed cabbage rolls if you are a vegetarian. With a selection of dirty movies and scrumptious food to hand, you are guaranteed to have a wicked time at the heart of Transylvania!

Oh, and there is no shortage of parties and networking opportunities (as part of RO Days, Tiff’s industry platform).

By Victor Fraga - 18-06-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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