The 18th edition of the Transilvania International Film Festival will take place between May 31 and June 9 in Cluj-Napoca. The TIFF is the most important and beloved film-related event in Romania, attracting many movie fans from Central and Eastern Europe, directors, producers, film industry professionals. Created by director Tudor Giurgiu, TIFF celebrates through screenings and special events originality and independence in filmmaking exploring with its packed program many of the latest trends in international cinema. This year’s special guests for the festival is Academy Award-winner Nicolas Cage who will receive the Transilvania Trophy for Special Contribution to World Cinema.
THE HUMORIST by Michael Idov – 1984, in the Soviet Union. Boris, a Russian-Jewish stand-up comedian, is tormented not only by external oppression and censorship but also by his own insecurities. Fame, combined with lack of personal freedom, is driving him crazy. Once the leaders who dictate what he can and can’t joke about summon him to their villa, the comedian snaps. Armed with the exotic American notion of “insult humor”, he takes his revenge.
THE MAN WHO SURPRISED EVERYONE by Alexey Chupov – Egor is a fearless state forest guard in the Siberian Taiga. He is a good family man, respected by his fellow villagers. He and his wife Natalia are expecting a second child. But one day Egor finds out that he has cancer and only two months left to live. No traditional medicine or shamanic magic can save him. Finally, left with no other options, he takes a desperate attempt to trick death. Egor chooses to take the identity of a woman as a way of fighting the disease. His family and the local society now have to accept his new self.
ROMANIAN FILM DAYS, the most outstanding national filmmaking with a spotlight of new films and emerging filmmakers
THE DISTANCE BETWEEN ME AND ME by Mona Nicoara – An intensely personal film about art, belief and politics. Individual memory and official archives portray Romanian Jewish avant-garde poet, musician, visual artist, femme fatale, prodigious drinker Nina Cassian from her refuge in the Communist underground during the Fascist 1940s that put her on a collision course with the Ceaușescu regime in the 1970s who eventually sent her into an unwanted New York exile in 1985.
MOON HOTEL KABUL by Anca Damian – Ivan Semciuc is a cynical investigative journalist. He is skilfully combining truth and fiction in his reports. Then comes a day when something similar occurs in his own life: at the end of a mission in Kabul, he has a one night stand with Ioana, the translator. The event is seemingly meaningless, but the next day, back to Bucharest, Ivan finds out that Ioana died with her wrists cut. The unshakable routine of his personal life enters a profound revolution, as Ioana is haunting him, more present in her death then she was during life.
SUPERNOVA, feature films premiered at the latest first-class international festivals
ROJO by Benjamín Naishta – In the mid-seventies, a strange man arrives in a quiet provincial city. In a restaurant, without any apparent reason, he starts insulting Claudio, a renowned lawyer. The community supports the lawyer and the stranger is humiliated and thrown out of the place. Later that night the stranger, who is determined to wreak a terrible vengeance, intercepts Claudio and his wife Susana. The lawyer then takes a path of no return involving death, secrets and silence.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT by Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun – Based on actual events the story of the 1963 failed coup d’état in Turkey. A group of military officers plan to take down the government in Ankara. The taking over of the the National Radio station does not go to plan. A dark comedy, a wry commentary on Turkey’s uneasy political past suitable to explain the present political situation.
THE RIVER by Emir Baigazin – Set in Kazakhstan the story of a family. Five sons live isolated from the modern world under the control of the father who impose on them a strict sense of discipline. A nearby river is their secret refuge from his authority. One day a boy in city clothes arrives carrying an iPad and a different way of living.
THE THIRD WIFE by Ash Mayfair – In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May becomes the third wife of wealthy landowner Hung. Soon she learns that she can only gain status by asserting herself as a woman who can give birth to a male child. May’s hope to change her status turns into a real and tantalizing possibility when she gets pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, May finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are very few.
THE SPY GONE NORTH by Jong-bin Yoon – In 1993, former military officer Park Suk-young is recruited as a spy by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and given the codename “Black Venus”. He is then sent to infiltrate a group of high-ranking North Korean officials based in Beijing, with the ultimate goal of acquiring information on the North’s nuclear program. After becoming close to a key power broker, Black Venus succeeds beyond his wildest dreams of gaining the trust of North Korea’s leadership. But political machinations on both sides of the border threaten to derail his accomplishments.
TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG by Dominga Sotomayor Castillo – Chile, 1990. A small group of families lives in an isolated community right below the Andes, building a new world away from the urban excesses, with the emerging freedom that followed the recent end of the dictatorship. Here, teenagers Sofía and Lucas, and 10-year-old Clara, neighbours in this dry land, struggle with parents, first loves, and fears, as they prepare a big party for New Year’s Eve. They may live far from the dangers of the city, but not from those of nature.
WHAT’S UP DOC
DREAM AWAY by Marouan Omara and Johanna Domke – It hasn’t been so long since thousands of tourists from around the world came on holiday to Sharm El Sheikh. The Arab Spring and the confusion of the post revolutionary period deprived the place of its glamour. A surreal fiction-style documentary that features an inanimate city populated with ghosts and abandoned luxury hotel suites.
COLD CASE HAMMARSKJOLD by Mads Brügger – The United Nations’ Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was misteriously killed when his plane crashed in then Northern Rhodesia in 1961. He was flying in to peace talks to end fighting in the mineral-rich Katanga province in Congo. At that time Hammarskjöld was committed to advocating the independence of the former colony against the wishes of the European mining companies. It was not an accident. 55 years after the case is still unsolved. An impressive investigative documentary that tries to confront the truth buried under conspiracies, false clues and cover-ups. Göran Björkdahl, the protagonist in the film, has researched the case for years, and his conclusion, supported by new statements and previously unpublished documents, is, that Hammarskjöld‘s plane was brought down. The motive was to maintain the Westen control of Katanga minerals.
KABUL CITY IN THE WIND by Aboozar Amini – A poetic well-crafted film from a city where life runs against all odds. An impressive dip, into the chaos of Kabul, into its energy, its contradictions, its proud. Abas is fighting every day to keep his worn-out bus alive in the midst of traffic chaos. Afshin must take over the role of father for his brother as their father exiled in Iran. Kabul is still covered by the dust of countless years of conflict, but life continues for its inhabitants who wait for the wind to turn.
MIDNIGHT FAMILY by Luke Lorentzen – In Mexico City fewer than 45 public ambulances serve a population of 9 million. The Ochoa family earns a living — just barely — by operating one of the metropolis’ numerous privately owned ambulances, ferrying the injured to hospitals in hopes of being monetarily rewarded for their efforts. When a crackdown by corrupt police forces the family to try legitimizing their operation, their desperate financial situation pushes them into questionable practices.
ORA DE RELIGIE, religion and faith in all their social and political ramifications, nine films focused on different visions of faith competing for the 2019 FIPRESCI Award.
A SHELTER AMONG THE CLOUDS by Robert Budina – Besnik is a lonely shepherd and devoted Muslim, haunted by unfulfilled love. He is the son of a Catholic mother and formerly Communist father whom he takes care of in an Albanian village in the mountains. Up here, Christians and Muslims have found a way to co-exist peacefully. Even after the discovery that the old mosque used to be a church, the calm of daily life can be preserved – with Besnik’s help. After the death of his father, however, drastic changes threaten Besnik’s multi-faith family and the shepherd is forced to seek his own path.
M by Yolande Zauberman – Bnei Brak, world capital of the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, where Menahem Lang grew up. He was known for his golden voice, which made him a renowned performer of liturgical chants. Since then he has been hiding a secret: for years, he was raped by members of the community that worshipped him. Menahem succeeds in opening the door to this forbidden world. Menahem returns to the scene of the crime. It is also a return to the places he loved. But is it also a reconciliation?
GOD EXISTS, HER NAME IS PETRUNYA by Teona Strugar Mitevska – Petrunya is 31 but her mother advises her to tell she is 24. She can’t find a job as she has studied history, a subject that no one in Macedonia seems to need. One day, on the Epiphany she decides to take on the challenge and participate in the yearly race for the holy cross that the priest has thrown into the icy river. She dives and competing against young men, she makes it. An angry and melancholic as well satire that questions the status of democratic change in Macedonian society, pointing its finger at the representatives of the church and the media by putting under the spotlight the figure of a woman who asserts herself against archaic traditions.
CANARY by Christiaan Olwagen – The complicated relationship between sexuality and faith destabilizes the existence of a young solider Johan who is drafted to do his military stage in the church choir of the South African defense forces. Set in South Africa in 1985, a love story that speaks to identity and acceptance in a world that is oppressively uniform.
BOTA by Iris Elezi – Populated by charming oddballs, quirky café Bota is a silent witness to the lives and secrets of people living in the shadow of the past. Long after the end of Albania’s harsh dictatorship, the locals’ lives have stagnated, most too poor to seize the opportunities liberty has offered them. But progress, in the form of a highway construction project, prompts change and new decisions for this very special café society.
SYSTEME K by Renaud Barret – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2017. In the urban jungle counting over 13 million inhabitants, amid social and political chaos, an eclectic and bubbling street art scene is emerging. Underground visual artists, musicians and performers create out of nothing, using recycled objects and their own bodies to express their anger, but also their dreams for change. Despite the constant harassment of the authorities, the strong taboos of a traditional society and the personal struggles of the artists, the movement can no longer be stopped.
SYNONYMS by Nadav Lapid – Yoav, a young Israeli, is determined to wipe out his origins and become French. In Paris, he abandons the Hebrew language and strives in all sorts of ways to find a new identity.
JINPA by Pema Tseden – On an isolated road passing through the vast barren plains of Tibet, a truck driver who has accidentally run over a sheep chances upon a young man who is hitching a ride. As they drive and chat, the truck driver notices that his new friend has a silver dagger strapped to his leg. He comes to understand that this man is out to kill someone who wronged him earlier in life. As he drops the hitchhiker off at a fork in the road, little does the truck driver realize that their short time together has changed everything, and that their destinies are inexorably intertwined.
EASY LESSONS by Dorottya Zurbó – The poetic journey of Kafiya, a beautiful girl who on the brink of adulthood breaks up with everything she grew up with in Somalia. Cultural values, taboos and dogmas fall apart in the most casual situations as she tries to adapt to a new life in Europe, Hungary. Her Mum helped her escape her fate, but how can Kafiya explain the changes she lives through to her most loved one? She wants to do it for a sense of duty, but how… This inner struggle becomes the film itself and maybe the only possible form of confession.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION by Laurentiu Calciu – A unique document on the mood of a nation shortly after the bloody days of the 1989 Romanian Revolution. The film records the state of affairs in Bucharest, where random protests happen on a daily basis, as many people are worried about the way the self-proclaimed new leaders have taken control. The camera captures the streets filled with people engaged in passionate political debates.