Tales from the-Golden Age

Five Films to Watch at the Toronto-Romanian Film Festival

Mark your calendars! The 3rd edition of the Toronto-Romanian Film Festival is in full swing from February 4th to the 7th. In collaboration with the Romanian Cultural Institute, organizers have programmed a varied bunch of films for this year's mix, all touching on the theme of crisis and adaptation.

No surprises here. Over the last little while, I have sung much praise about the smart, brash, multi award-winning new wave of Romanian cinema. And after previewing what's on at the festival this weekend, I will continue to do so.

Highly Recommended

Tales From The Golden Age
Yes, fact can be stranger than fiction. In a series of shorts, Tales From the Golden Age offers a surreal and comedic portrait of life in Romania in the 1980s. Each hugely entertaining segment tells an urban legend of everyday survival under the much-feared communist regime of the time. Ah, the good old days. Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) wrote and directed parts of this with a little help from fellow filmmakers Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu, Constantin Popescu, and Ioana Uricaru. (Feb. 5)


Constantin and Elena
In one scene in Constantin and Elena, the titular subjects of the doc examine a can of Pepsi they received as a gift. Elena suggests it might be a beer. Constantin reads the ingredients list, still unsure of what might be in the can. Then, cut to the elderly couple sitting at the kitchen table, each contently sipping a glass of cola. Is taking a camera into your grandparent's home to document their simple, rural lives a bit exploitive? Maybe a little. But, after spending a year following the couple, director Andrei Dascalescu tells a very sweet love story. (Feb. 6)

Videograms of a Revolution
In keeping with this year's theme, Videograms of a Revolution is a day-by-day play-by-play run through the events of December 1989 in Bucharest, stitching together clips from official state television broadcasts, along with amateur and behind-the-scenes footage. Made in 1992, the hard-hitting doc also opened the Romanian Film Festival in New York recently. (Feb. 6)

The Paper Will Be Blue
A night in the life of an armoured car unit, in Bucharest, late December 1989. Here's the setting: it's a few hours after the fall of communist dictator Ceausescu, the streets are chaotic, and it's unclear who is running the country. Keen to get involved, Costi, one of the younger militia men, abandons the unit. Costi gets into heaps of trouble, while his unit waits patiently for him to return... at his mom's house. (Feb. 7)

Not As Recommended

Katalin Varga
I'm on the fence about this rural drama/thriller/revenge story. Katalin Varga follows a woman who abruptly leaves her village and sets off (with her son in tow) to deal with some unfinished business. The story unfolds in fits and starts, with an explosive reveal about midway through. The folks at the Berlin International Film Festival seemed to like the film; Katalin Varga won the Silver Berlin Bear at the 2009 Festival, as well as the 2009 European Film Academyʼs European Discovery Award. (Feb. 7)

The Toronto-Romanian Film Festival kicks off with a free pre-festival screening of the French-produced The New Wave of Romanian Cinema, followed by a round-table discussion about adaptation in contemporary Romanian cinema with critics and festival guests. (Feb. 4 at the ROM)

Check out the full festival schedule here.

Tickets $10/$15 and passes are available at the UofT Tix box office at 7 Hart House Circle, online, or by calling the box office directly at 416-978-8849.

Still from Tales From The Golden Age.

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