We meet here again for our fifth annual celebration of Romanian cinema at Curzon Mayfair.
As you know, what we like to call New Romanian Cinema has been doing marvellously lately. After decades in which it was hardly 'on the map', in less than five years it has switched to being the happening cinema on the international film scene.
As faithful friends of our festival, you might remember that last year we focused on Romania's past imperfect and on New Romanian Cinema's own way of bidding farewell to that past. This year we went for a change - it's going to be Geography rather than History.
And what better choice for thinking about longing and belonging than Cristian Nemescu's Cannes winner California Dreamin'! “It seems to me that the further East you go the more un-punctual are the trains”, remarked Jonathan Harker, the British gentleman journeying by train from England to Count Dracula's remote castle. In Bram Stoker's novel Harker was the quintessential 'other' coming with his array of prejudices, only to be trapped in Dracula's lair. Nemescu's Cpt. Jones (Armand Assante) is an American Harker for modern times, trapped with his train, troops and all in a disobedient rural Romania, being fast-tracked to redefine normality. He gets to meet Dracula too, albeit not in the original... plus a helping of Elvis Rromano, the king of rock'n'Rrom - yet another hilarious intersection of the local with the global!
At the heart of Nemescu's film is a twisted version of the American Dream, in which Romanians waited for the Americans to save them from the Russians in the aftermath of WWII: Americans never came so communism stayed - and today how timely is today this story of longing and non-interventionalism! In praise of Nemescu's vision, we developed our festival around the concept of Home & Away. Dislocation and longing provide the connective tissue of this year's programme, which includes film-makers, documentary subjects and fictional characters who navigate between the realities, dreams and expectations of here and there. Many films in the programme are about journeys - territorial, identitary or philosophical; actual, planned or imagined. And we must admit that this year we indulged ourselves in a more fluid sense of geography when it came to mapping 'Romanian-ness', by integrating works from Romanian film-makers based outside their birth country. It took some weeks of compulsive googling, but do check on our films coming from places other than Romania and you will agree that they add-on nicely to the ones from 'home'. We lined up a polyglot celebration of great cinema by Romanian film-makers - we have English, German, French, Hungarian, Rromani, Turkish, some broken Italian and even a small helping of Chinese Mandarin!
And we also plan to teach British audiences how to spell some new Romanian names this year, now that they've proven their dedication by learning the likes of 'Mungiu', 'Puiu' and 'Porumboiu'. Nemescu died while he was the raising star of New Romanian Cinema. In praise of his truncated career, we have included two special shorts sessions with the freshest names coming out of Romania today.
So welcome to our celebration of Romanian cinema's home-coming into World Cinema, and also of five years of Romanian Film Festival in London! We take pride in having initiated our festival right at the time when the new voices of Romanian cinema started to be heard at an international level. We've been delighted to share and follow their success over the past five years and we look forward to doing the same in the future.
Adina Bradeanu - Programme Curator