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Our lowdown on the 23rd edition of Tiff Romania

For the third consecutive year, DMovies attends one of the largest and most exciting film celebrations of Eastern Europe; check out our dirty picks, the winners, and also our questions to the Festival founder and President Tudor Giurgiu

Now nearly a quarter of a century old, the Transilvania International Film Festival (also known as Tiff Romania; the name of the country is needed in order to differentiate the event from its namesakes in Toronto and Tokyo) is now firmly established as one of the largest, most exciting and diverse film events of Eastern Europe. During a course of 11 days in late June, approximately 250 films, plus concerts, exhibitions and talks are shown to more than 100,000 guests, including 1,000 industry professionals from all over the world.

The action started on June 14th, when roughly 3,500 film lovers packed the Piata Unirii in order to watch the premiere of Luc Besson’s barking mad DogMan. The sumptuous ceremony also included “flying” acrobats from Belgium, hanging from a giant ring hoisted by an industrial crane, and a brief speech by film star Jojo T. Gibbs

Here are the big winners (click on the film title in order to accede to our exclusive dirty review):

Our dirty picks, not included above, are The Permanent Picture (Laura Ferres) and Toll (Carolina Markowicz).

I took the opportunity to sit down and talk to Tudor Giurgiu, the Festival founder and President, and also a prominent filmmaker himself (his latest movie Nasty: More than Just Tennis, co-directed by Cristian Pascariu and Tudor D. Popescu premiered in Cannes at couple of months ago, and was also showcased in the Festival)

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Victor Fraga – You are now nearly a quarter of a century old. Please tell us how it all began. And why Cluj/Transylvania and not Bucharest?

Tudor Giurgiu – I think it began in a moment when I confused about what am I going to do in the Romanian film industry, because at that moment it was non-existent. Basically, I still remember the year 2000, when no Romanian films were produced. Zero films, Thankfully that was the last time in recent history!

Then I came up also this idea of starting something new. And I thought about a film festival, mostly because there was none at that moment, nothing really solid. I had this idea and I thought: “let’s do it, let’s do it!”. I decided it should be here because Cluj is my hometown. There are a lot of cinephiles here. When I was a child, people were queuing to see films.

VF – Are people from Bucharest not jealous?

TG – I think Cluj is much more manageable in terms of size, and we still have a lot of single-screen cinemas. We were looking at the figures, and the average person here would see twice the number of films than the average person in Bucharest. In a big capital city, the traffic is crazy! So I’m very happy about my decision.

VF – Please tell us a little bit about programming. Do you have an open call open from films from all over the world, or are your films primarily selected by programmers attending other festivals throughout the year?

TG – It’s a mix. Mihai [Chirilov] and his team of seven people pay very close attention to everything that’s happening. I believe that the majority of the titles came the scouting, which happens throughout the whole year. They travel to many festivals and select what they think is relevant for our public.

VF – If I was a Chinese or a Brazilian filmmaker, and my film hadn’t been shown in any of the big festivals, is there any hope for me? Should I can I still submit my film?

TG – Yeah. Of course. That’s the whole idea. We have had a great experience with directors coming from India, Korea, or even the US and Norway. I’m happy that they are really watching everything. Mihai really keeps an eye and respects the filmmakers who send their films.

VF – Are there any exciting facts and figures you could share with us. For example, how many international guests do you receive every year, how many submissions do you receive every year, from which country do you receive most submissions, which films are most popular with your audiences?

TG – We have 100,000 paid tickets per year, plus a lot of free events. And we have between 600 and 1,000 submissions for feature films, I don’t remember the exact figure. And they are from all over the world. We are very well known for some specific regions. For example, South America, particularly films from Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. Some of these people won major awards [such as Brazilian carol Markowicz, who won the Best Director prize just last year, with Charcoal]. This year we are showing 180 plus feature films. Japan is our focus country this year.

VF – Why should filmmakers submit their work to Tiff? Is there anything that makes your festival different, special or unique?

TG – It’s about having opportunities to be discovered. We have a great audience, I think. As you can see, we have a lot of sold-out screenings. For a filmmaker, it’s great to see your film in a full house. And of course there is a chance to be seen by other selectors, other festivals. We invite programmers from other festivals who don’t look just for Romanian films.

VF – Do you intend to apply for a-list accreditation with Fiapf?

TG – In order to be an a-list, you need to have world premieres. I don’t think there are enough good films done every year for world premieres. I know a lot of filmmakers prefer to wait maybe another year in the hope to go to Berlinale or to to Cannes even though their film is completed, let’s say, in autumn. We are very happy with our current status.

VF – I haven’t seen many British films here, correct me if I’m wrong. Do you have any partnerships, collaborations or just plain anecdotes about British cinema?

TG – I can now share the big news with you in advance. Next year, we’re going to do a big programme with the UK. And it isn’t just film, it’s also VR, folk music, and other things. As with Japan this year. We were trying this for many years, and now the time has finally come. And we are big fans of British cinema and British culture.

VF – Presumably you are working with the BFI?

TG – Yes. We started conversations in Berlinale and Cannes, so things are developing pretty quick!

VF – Romanian film has achieved worldwide recognition in the past 20 years, particularly in the festival circuit. These films tend to be realistic, austere and often provocative. The pool of filmmakers is very large: Christian Mungiu, Radu Juede, Emanuel Parvu, Cristi Puiu, Adina Pintilie, yourself, and so many others. Why do you think Romania spurred such a sizeable and potent movement, where many of your neighbours failed?

TG – It’s still very hard for me to find the explanation. I think it’s a lot about a generation that grew up together, people sharing the same preoccupation. We were all born under communism, and we tried to approach film is a more direct way, instead of the more allegorical and metaphorical approach that marked the past.

VF – Has your government been supportive of the nascent industry?

TG – yes, they have been supportive, especially in the last 10 to 15 years, after they realised that Romanian cinema is strong. It’s not an accidental thing. It’s very significant for Romanian culture.

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The opening ceremony at Piata Unirii (picture by Tiff Romania) is pictured at the top; the other images are stills of the Girls Will Be Girls and The Other Son.


By Victor Fraga - 22-06-2024

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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