Held each year in the city of Cluj-Napoca at the start of summer and releasing a full program each year, TIFF showcases both domestic productions and international films. Founded in 2002, the Romanian festival’s main goal is to promote cutting-edge cinema via open-air screenings, concerts, workshops and exhibitions. The official selection of this year’s anniversary edition included Where There Is Shade, As I Open My Eyes, Dogs, Tikkun, Thirst, Tanna, Sparrows, Shelley, Remainder, The Open Door, Island City, and Fado. Screenings were held in various locations around Cluj-Napoca. Check our top picks from this year’s festival.
Forget cinematic conventions and let Love Exposure take you on a wild ride. This year, the festival turned the spotlight on Sion Sono’s Japanese horror masterpieces. Love Exposure is a four-hour journey into a bizarre, twisted world that explores the struggle of alienated youth in contemporary society. Heavy in symbolism, graphic violence and cartoonish characters, this Japanese independent movie is at once exhausting and rewarding. The cult filmmaker’s grotesque films dominated the festival this summer with ten of his masterpieces screened in various locations across Cluj-Napoca.
Romanian New Wave opened the festival with Nae Caranfil’s latest movie, 6.9 On The Richter Scale. Half realistic and half fantasy, the film explores an actor’s juggle between theatrical performance and the real world. As the title suggests, an imminent earthquake prediction shakes the actor’s world. The earthquake almost becomes a character itself, as he develops a strange obsession with it.
As Lanre Bakare suggests in The Guardian, Felix Van Groeningen’s Belgica is a ‘realistic tale of hedonism gone wrong.’ A rock ‘n’ roll tale about the rise and fall of two brothers that open a bar and get swept into a vicious circle of nightlife excess, the film closed this year’s ceremony. It not only offers an extremely entertaining visual experience, but it also has a pretty impressive soundtrack. The Belgian band Soulwax, which previously collaborated with Van Groeningen for Steve + Sky, features 16 songs on the soundtrack, used as singles of different bands in Belgica.
If you’d rather enjoy breathtaking visual cinematography than action and adrenaline, then the unique Australian film Tanna, winner of two awards at Venice Film Festival, is for you. Previously known for documentary films, co-directors Bentley Dean and Martin Butler produce an exotic and fresh Romeo and Juliet adaptation that takes place in South Pacific’s Vanuatu. The film mixes sparse acting with a simple plot and gorgeous, green shooting locations.
Bogdan Mirica’s first feature, winner of the Transylvania Trophy at TIFF and awarded in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, this modern-day grim western explores main character Roman’s struggle to adapt in a quiet and infertile rural area inherited from his grandfather. Corruption and the depravity of human nature are the main themes of the Romanian director’s debut thriller. In an interview for Cannes, he states the memory of unschooled violence in the countryside inspired him to produce Dogs: ‘Sometimes, during the summer nights I’d witness these savage fights between the locals. These guys didn’t need a reason to enter a fight – they just wanted to see who would come out on top. For all their savagery and lack of morals, there was a sort of ancestral purity about their acts. I can still remember that feeling. That’s what Dogs is all about.’
Avishai Sivan brings black-and-white cinema to life with this bold, thought-provoking and minimalist tale about religion and extreme beliefs. Winner of the Best Directing Award at TIFF and Best Movie Award at the Jerusalem Festival, the plot follows Haim-Aron, a young fundamentalist from the Jewish community that starts questioning everything after a near-death experience. The duality between asceticism and sexuality, extreme religious restrictions and liberal Dionysian intoxicates Haim-Aron’s mind. Despite the black-and-white early noir atmosphere, the main character’s behavior has a grey undertone as he finds himself in a constant struggle to define his own identity.
Leyla Bouzid makes an impressive debut with this coming-of-age tale set in the middle of Tunisia‘s Jasmin Revolution. Capturing rebel youth’s exuberant and defiant spirit, it follows the story of Farah, a young and stubborn musician caught between two worlds: restrictive traditional society and daring punk underground nightlife, in which she expresses herself through sound and poetry with her activist friends. One of the best parts of this movie might just be its soundtrack: a unique blend of rock, indie and tearful Arabic music.