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Cannes 2016: „Romania – small country, great cinema. It dominates the competition”

    I could have begun this article, whose title is taken from the Friday edition of the “le Figaro” newspaper with other quotes from the international press, like “Romania can`t be absent from the 2016 list of winners.”
The extraordinary receiving of Cristian Mungiu`s film reactivated the reception of Cristi Puiu in the first day of competition; somehow, it brought back his success. Of course, the two of them were compared: “If we put together Graduation  and Sieranevada made by his fellow countryman Cristi Puiu, we`ll see that the two films, through the angle of personal situations, offer a human, political and social X-ray, as unsettling as what gets off the rails or doesn`t work are connected to a new start. And Puiu and Mungiu seem to be in tune when it comes to talking about the great disappointment of a world dominated by incorrect judgments and inadequate solutions” says Didier Péron in „Libération”.
     Actually the success that Graduation had started even before the screening day. We found out that the film had already been sold in 30 countries; the arguments that sold it were the screenplay and the name of its author. Only a few hours after we left the big  Lumière hall, Cristian Mungiu started the discussion again about the presence of the Romanian cinema in Cannes, seen by most of the observers as one that the jury cannot ignore. As luck would have it, the French critics seem to be out of words. After the press conference, I talked a bit more to the distinguished Danièle Heymann who moderated it with her usual elegance: “You have such brilliant filmmakers!” In less than three hours, I would read in the on line edition of „L’Express” (decades ago, they were the first ones to use the phrase New Wave): “Mungiu monitors the Romanian society in a brilliant way…The filmmaker who received the Palme d`Or in 2007 for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days makes a magnificent portrayal of a father forced to break all his life principles in order to save his daughter`s future.(…) By means of his protagonist, magnificently played by Adrian Titieni (we`ll see him again starting with the 8th of June in the excellent Illegitimate), Mungiu depicts the picture of the nowadays Romanian society, with its small or big arrangements with the law, which survived after Ceaușescu`s fall. And he does it without wrapping himself in a Justice Knight mantle.(…) Graduation proves to be a strong contender for the Palme d`Or, only a few days after his fellow countryman Cristi Puiu`s  Sieranevada. Romania can`t be absent from the 2016 list of winners.”
“A great film by Cristian Mungiu” I read in „Télérama”, “profound characters, greatly crafted screenplay”.  At the press conference, the questions that were addressed were profuse of the admiration for our new film in competition. When asked about what triggered the idea of the screenplay, the author answered: “I can`t tell you exactly what triggered it; I want to make those films that are the most important for me in that particular time of my life…It is important for the heroes to believe that you cannot do just about anything in the name of the affection for someone.” That is a very subtle psychological observation which can also be found in the Director`s Note in the press kit: “Once you made the first compromise, the second and the third one came more easily – you slowly made peace with the idea that compromise is part of life and that, after all, there are different kinds of lies, different kinds of compromise and all kinds of situations.”
     Adrian Titieni shared with us his experience of being the father of two children. He understood his character very well, life led him to some circumstances when he was supposed to take some decisions. A young journalist confessed she cried at the end of the film that she found “crushing”, despite its festive tone. Is it possible to speak about optimism under these circumstances? “I`m trying not to have all the answers – Mungiu replied – but I`m not very optimistic. We made a lot of progress, but there still is a social anxiety in Romania. We must do something now and not leave it for the future.”
Thursday night and Friday the American and the French press poured with laudatory comments. „Variety” considers that in a year of the female domination on screen, Graduation “is one of the few films that assess the traditional male protagonist. Until now, Adrian Titieni and Joel Edgerton (Loving) are the best bets for the Best Actor category.”  In „Screen International”, on the page with the review scores given by a jury of critics, Mungiu is very close to Cristi Puiu – Graduation received 2,9 and Sieranevada 3 (of 4). On a social media network, a film lover asks rhetorically “why is the Romanian cinema capable of such performances and why the French one isn`t?”
     The magazine “Le Film Français”, whose jury is made only of French critics places Graduation among the first three favorite films. The success of our filmmakers sometimes places us in a tight corner, because some critics from different countries ask us a question that is difficult to answer, at least for now: Who did you like best? Puiu or Mungiu? We make our way out of it with a “Both”.

Tags: bacalaureat film, cannes 2016, cristi puiu, cristian mungiu, graduation film, sieranevada film