Over the years Transilvania International Film Festival has developed becoming the most relevant film-related event in Romania and in Central Eastern Europe. From the beginning TIFF has dedicated particular attention to local film industry and emerging talents in an effort to connect regional cinema with the international film industry. It has been a remarkable achievement. How did you come up the idea of making a film festival in Transilvania?
I was born here in the same city of Cluj. I had natural connections with places and people but also I did research and observed that the city of Cluj has the biggest number of moviegoers in the country. The film audience is double than in Bucarest if we compare with the number of inhabitants, the cinema infrastructure was and it is very good. Movies theathers were restored and modernized. For me, it was the ideal setting to make a festival. And we had the name, Transilvania, that is a strong brand.
How did the TIFF influence the emergence of the Romanian Wave and is the TIFF now in turn influenced by this successful film culture?
It is funny to remember that when I had the idea starting the TIFF in 2001 it was immediately after the most horrible year in the history of Romanian cinema, when the national film production was zero. Image me trying to pitch the idea of an international film festival! I remember that in 2002, it was the first edition, we had in competition the very first movie of Cristian Mungiu who got the main award with Occident. I think the key of the success lies in the fact that we were developing in the same time and in the same way of the Romanian Wave. For me, as a film maker, it was essential to showcase our films to producers and decision-makers, find financing and distribution. Being in the film industry I was fully aware of this. Until 2002 we went abroad, to France or Germany, to pitch festivals.
The role of the Transilvania International Film Festival was meant to be essential in the promotion of our cinema. At the time there was no film institute or some strategy to develop and promote national film industry. That’s why after four years, in 2006, we decided to organize the section Romanian Days, where the new Romanian films meet the world of the film industry. There are pitching of new projects, there close screenings of working progress. Under the brand Romanian Days we were able somehow to make promotion. I think that without these great films of the last fifteen years, the Romanian Wave indeed, the TIFF would have not been so successful. But I think we have helped the positioning and the promotion of our film industry all the same. Now we are helpful to young film-makers as Paul Negoescu who made a great film, Lottery Tickets that was very successful in box office this year. Expecially the new generation is very trustful at the festival.
The Romanian Wave was very deep inspired by the communist past. What inspires the new generation of filmmaker today?
I think the narration is much relaxed now. There is no more the obsession of formal constrains in terms of film construction; for example long dialogues, no music, etc. The young filmmakers have no anxiety and pressure. They are more careful about commercial narrative structure, they are more sensitive towards audience expectations.
Has film distribution in Romania improved over the years since the first edition of the TIFF?
There is a big gap between the level of film production and the quality of the films. Besides, most cinema theaters in the country are extremely run-down. Romania has still the lowest density of theatres in Europe. There are cities with over 100,000 inhabitants that don’t have movies theaters or have only multiplex. Back to the 17th edition of the TIFF. A very rich program packed with more than 200 feature lenght and short films, very interesting focus on Eastern Europe cinema, many side events and about 25 thematic sections. One of the most intriguing is Politically Uncorrect.
Can you tell us something about this choice?
Both me and the TIFF artistic director, Mihai Chirilov, share this feeling of unease before this increasing hypocrisy of our societies. For example, the consequences of the Me Too movement, or the attitude towards fake news, or the characterising of women in a movie. So we decided to do a section with so to say provocative films. We do not like politically correct films.
Which are the main challanges of 2018 TIFF?
Well, I love this word ‘unboxing’ Ingmar Bergman retrospective to young audience. I am curious to see their reaction, if they want to know more about Bergman. For me he is one of the most enigmatic and talented filmmaker in the history.
What is TIFF greatest accomplishment in the future?
What we should achieve in the next year is something for the city and for the region, that is bring more industry activity in the country because in Romania most of the film-related activies are held in Bucarest. Thanks to the success of the TIFF many film makers and film operators found a home here, but we would need something more. I think it is possible now to transform Transilvania in a regional hub for film production and post-production.
An unconfortable question for a festival director. Some predictions on winning films at the TIFF 2018?
It will be very open, it can go in any direction. I have no preference but I can say we have a great Russian film in competition. I am curious about the reaction of the jury.