(unpublished article about Transilvania International Film Festival 2010)
The Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF), started in 2002 (virtually at the same time as the New Romanian Cinema), has grown year on year, at a spectacular pace. The ninth edition of the festival screened a record number of 240 films (more than 200 of which were features) from 47 countries and also enjoyed a record number of guests coming to Cluj. TIFF’s main attractions, beside the national (and sometimes international) premieres of 16 recent Romanian feature films (of which two – First of All, Felicia [Felicia, înainte de toate] by Răzvan Rădulescu and Melissa de Raaf and Medal of Honour [Medalia de onoare] by Călin Peter Netzer – have made it to the main competition and received important awards), included several impressive events for cinephiles.
First of all, the restored, extended edition of Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis (1927), which had had its world premiere at the Berlinale earlier this year, was screened for the first time in 35 mm, in front of a sold-out Cinema Republica. The event featured another premiere: the German musician, DJ and media artist Antonio Bras accompanied the screening with an original live musical score. While most of the previous musical arrangements developed for Metropolis were based on classical instrumentation, the Lisbon-born artist surprised and enchanted the audience with his remarkable mix of old and new styles. Bras, a promoter of alternative club culture, used, alongside traditional instruments, electronically generated simulations and purely synthetic sounds, in a brave attempt to bring the classic film closer to the younger public. The dynamic dialogue between the moving images and the eclectic sounds worked wonders for TIFF’s audience.
Two other live accompanied screenings contrasted the third and the fourth Dracula films (including Murnau’s pioneering Nosferatu), shot simultaneously – one by day, the other by night, as the legend puts it – in 1931. The most famous one is, of course, Tod Browning’s Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi), which was accompanied, at the National Opera in Cluj, by the Arcadia chords quartet, playing the score that world famous Philip Glass composed especially for this film. The other big screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, the “Spanish twin” of Browning’s film, which was directed by George Melford, enjoyed a live accompaniment by American guitar hero, Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer Gary Lucas. His solo guitar score, which had had its world premiere last December at the Havana Film Festival, was performed in front of a large audience at the Bonţida Bánffy Castle, in a village near Cluj. The most interesting thing about these two screenings is that both films are talkies; however, they contain virtually no music beyond the opening and closing titles. Thus, the performed live scores emphasized not only the events unfolding on the screen, but also the dialogues between the characters, providing the spectators with a unique cinema experience.
While this year the highest prize in Cannes went to a Thai film, the Transilvania Trophy was also awarded to a filmmaker from Thailand. Mundane History (Jao nok krajok), the debut feature of independent director, screenwriter and producer Anocha Suwichakornpong, won over TIFF’s international jury with its bold, non-linear structure and the subtle insertions of various spectacular or troubling images, which turn a family / buddy drama into a poetic meditation on human life.
The last day of the festival brought together many Romanian and foreign film critics together at a gripping debate about “Romania on the Movie Map”. The third edition of the colloquy initiated by Romania’s Film Critics Association pointed out the still positive perspectives for the New Romanian Cinema – which TIFF is certain to continue to promote at future editions.