Andrei Zinca promotes the Romanian film festival here this month with a simple statement that has the ring of poetry and an Eastern European accent: “We chose a selection of films with stories that follow you after the screening is over,” he says.
The Miami television and film director is the force behind the event at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival’s Cinema Paradiso-Fort Lauderdale Oct. 10-16. It serves as a warm-up to the 29th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, set for Nov. 7-23, which, as always, brings intriguing films, actors and filmmakers from around the world to our shores.
The selection of comedies, dramas and documentaries in Focus Romania: Fort Lauderdale/Miami Waves are portrayed in modern minimalist style, often informed by the difficulties of life after the collapse of communism. The country has been a leader in European cinema, Zinca says, producing many award-winning shorts and features. The films, most subtitled in English, cater not only to connoisseurs, he adds, but also to “those interested in good entertainment.” Among the offerings is his feature-length directorial debut, Puzzle for a Blind Man, filmed in Romania and produced through Castel Film Studios of Bucharest and Zinca’s Miami-based Double 4 Studios. (For descriptions of films in the festival, visit cityandshore.com.)
The evenings will also include short films before the features and conversations with filmmakers afterward. Plus, Zinca says, “We are going to have Romanian hospitality in terms of food and drink every time and human warmth.”
That translates to a cocktail hour before all the films and post-screening parties afterward on opening weekend, Oct. 10-12, and on closing night, Oct. 16.
It seems that in addition to telling stories that follow you, Eastern Europeans know how to follow good storytelling with a good time.
FLiFF Romanian film festival, Focus Romania: Fort Lauderdale/Miami Waves, Oct. 10-16, Cinema Paradiso-Fort Lauderdale. 29th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Nov. 7-23. For tickets and information, visit FLiFF.com or call 954-525-3456.
Focus Romania is sponsored in part by the Romanian National Film Center and the Romanian Cultural Institute New York.
Online bonus: Focus Romania film descriptions
Puzzle for a Blind Man – Director Andrei Zinca has received critical acclaim for his feature film directorial debut about a repressed, middle-aged man who realizes his life has become one of misery and loneliness. After becoming friends with a blind writer he had to evict from his house, he finds the inspiration and courage he needs to break all the rules he had been forced to abide by and to reconnect with life’s joy and excitement. Zinca calls it “a twisted love story or a love story with a twist.” (Also known as Puzzle.)
California Dreamin’ – Inspired by a true story, Romanian director Cristian Nemescu’s comedy unfolds against the backdrop of the Kosovo War, circa 1999. A NATO train rolls into a Romanian hamlet, transporting weapons without official documents, only the verbal consent of Romanian authorities. The transport is vulnerable to the locals, particularly the corrupt head of the railway station who moonlights as a mobster and decides to interfere with the shipment. Winner of the Prix un certain regardat the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, it is the first and only feature directed by Nemescu, a talented young filmmaker who died in a car accident shortly after completing it.
Of Snails and Men – Loosely based on an actual 2002 event that transpired in Romania, Tudor Giurgiu’s engaging comedy shifts the action back to 1992, when the country was still naively unsure of what would follow the fall of communism. Threatened with the closure of their small-town factory, workers decide to sell their sperm so they can buy the plant and keep their jobs.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – Director Cristian Mungiu’s drama unfolds in Romania in the late ’80s, during the waning days of Communist Party rule. It follows two college friends in their effort to carry out an illegal abortion. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
The Silent Wedding – This film, based on true events in 1953, is set in a rural village in Romania, where two young lovers decide to get married. The joyous occasion is interrupted by the news about Joseph Stalin’s death and a mandatory period of commemoration. Any public celebration is forbidden. Although the townspeople regard the distant authorities as self-centered power mongers, they have no choice but to comply. Unwilling to completely acquiesce, they adapt by having a silent wedding that is played out with all the farcical pratfalls of a fine mime production.
Closer to the Moon – A Romanian police officer teams up with a small crew of old friends from the World War II Jewish resistance to pull off a heist by convincing everyone at the scene of the crime that they are only filming a movie. It is based on true events.
Goldfaden’s Legacy – More than 126 years ago, the father of Yiddish theater, Avram Goldfaden, founded the first professional Jewish theater in the north of Romania, at Iasi in the Moldavia region. This documentary by Romanian director Radu Gabrea describes Goldfaden’s journey from Iasi to New York, highlighting Jewish culture. At Goldfaden’s death in 1980, some 70,000 New Yorkers participated in the funeral procession, blocking traffic in Manhattan to pay their last respects to the “Shakespeare of the Jewish people.” The film celebrates the songs, stars and stories of Yiddish theater and its role in the Jewish-American experience.
Rumenye! Rumenye! – In this documentary Romanian director Radu Gabrea travels to New York to delve into a specific aspect of klezmer music: the Romanian doina. Gabrea interviews musicians and experts, including Yale Strom, Elisabeth Schwartz, Ze’ev Feldman, Andy Statman and Michael Alpert. Together they explore the mutual influences shared by Romanian, gypsy and Jewish music.