Romanian Film Festival Toronto

5 Films to watch at the Toronto Romanian Film Festival

Watch a lot of foreign films and you'll notice that Romania's been pumping out a healthy crop of festival hits in recent years. Catch the latest at the 4th edition of the Toronto Romanian Film Festival, hitting the Bloor Cinema and Innis Theatre this weekend (Friday, May 20th to Sunday, May 22nd). Romania's "New Wave" filmmakers will have new works showcased, along with high profile films from emerging directors.

While it might be wee bit of a struggle to watch a set of slow-moving, minimalistic, ordinary life tales in a block together (like I did this past weekend), here are five films running at this year's festival - and worthy of your eye time.

Tuesday, After Christmas
Tuesday, After Christmas is the new film from The Paper Will Be Blue director, Radu Muntean, and while it doesn't go for yelling and hysterics, there sure is a lot of drama here. By the end of the opening pillow talk scene, we learn that Raluca is not Paul's wife. In fact, Paul juggles this romance with the young dentist along with his ten-year marriage and family life seemingly without effort, so much so that the denouement comes as a shocking surprise.

Medal of Honor
If you see only one film at the Toronto Romanian Film Festival this year, make it Medal of Honor. It's a simple character piece about a stubborn elderly veteran who, due to an administrative error, is offered a medal for heroism in wartime, then is asked to return it (but not without a fight!). It broke my heart.

Nelu, a supermarket security guard in a small border town finds himself in a bit of a situation out on his morning fishing run. From where he casts his line, he can see a Turkish man about his own age hiding from the border police. He doesn't report the man and, initially, has no interest in helping him either. Nelu is baffled by the foreigner (as are we because his words, likely intentionally, are not subtitled), but can't help but take him in.

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
This juvie prison piece by newcomer Florin Serban was Romania's selection for the 2011 Academy Awards, won a couple of awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and holds the festival's opening slot. Maybe that's why I was a little disappointed. In this one, an inmate learns that his mom is about to move his little brother to Italy - then he gets real mad, confronts her and the entire prison security staff.

Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
The festival closer is a doc about Ceausescu, unlike any I've seen before. This profile of the storied ex-dictator and head of the Romanian Communist Party (1965-89), is strictly a montage of footage, with no explanation, no dates, and sometimes no sound. The chosen clips are quite powerful, and though it's a tad long, Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu is a fascinating piece. You'll see parades, speeches, volley ball games, warm receptions from the Queen of England, Mao Tse-tung in China, North Korea, and a walk through the market with Nixon, to name just a few, beginning and ending with television footage of Nicolae and his wife being questioned as they await their execution.

The Toronto Romanian Film Festival runs from Friday, May 20th to Sunday, May 22nd at the Bloor Cinema and Innis Theatre. Tickets $10/$15 can be purchased online or at the door.

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