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    TIFF Turns 10 – Cluj’s Transsilvania International Film Festival reaches its first decade

    By Martin Blaney | June 27, 2011

    In photo: Transilvania Trophy winner Miguel Cohan with Jacqueline Bisset, courtesy Nicu Cherciu/TIFF

    In photo: Transilvania Trophy winner Miguel Cohan with Jacqueline Bisset, courtesy Nicu Cherciu/TIFF

    When KINO – German Film’s Ron and Dorothea Holloway attended the first edition of the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2002 with Ron as the first jury president, the fledgling event presented a total of 45 films in just two venues. Ten years later, the festival – running from 3-12 June – has expanded into one of leading international film events with a lineup of some 220 films for its jubilee edition plus several special events dedicated to music, theatre, fashion and photography at 30 venues in and outside Cluj.

    In total, around 70,000 admissions were posted for the films and festival events, with daily traffic of between 20,000-25,000 at the key festival venues including the recently refurbished Cinema Florin Piersic (previously known as Cinema Republica). However, the organisers of TIFF haven’t let the festival expand just for the sake of it: president Tudor Giurgiu and artistic director Mihai Chirilov, who were the architects of this annual cinematic feast and have remained at the helm ever since, have ensured that the special TIFF spirit has nevertheless been preserved.

    As Giurgiu said in the special edition of AperiTIFF about the first ten years of the festival: „The yearly success of TIFF is a continuous miracle, mostly because this was a project born out of love for film and out of a desperate need for an event which would eventually, hopefully put Romania on the movie map.“

    „TIFF has been showing edgy and provocative films, but has also been a great place for encounters,“ he observes. „There is something in the air of Cluj during the festival which makes it unique – I always like to say it’s like in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream: Everything becomes possible.“

    And, writing in the daily festival newspaper AperiTIFF, the British film critic David Robinson said that the festival in Cluj „is exciting because it seeks out the new and unknown – it’s all discovery, challenging us with artists and titles of whom we haven’t yet heard (…) the excitement of Cluj is the unaffected, uninhibited enthusiasm of its youthful audience, devouring films all day and partying through the night.“

    This year, the festival opened with an open-air screening of Francois Ozon’s Potiche which was a way of coming full circle since the French director had been featured in the festival’s 3×3 section in the first edition in 2002.

    German cinema was featured throughout the festival’s various sections, with The Silence (Das grosse Schweigen) and Innocent Saturday screening in the main Competition, a special screening of Wim Wenders‘ 3D dance documentary Pina as well as presentations of Philip Koch’s Picco, Feo Aladag’s When We Leave, Jan Schomburg’s Above Us Only Sky and a 3×3 showcase dedicated to Werner Herzog along with a screening of his 3D documentary Cave Of Forgotten Dreams.

    At the awards ceremony in the National Theatre on the Saturday evening Argentinian director Miguel Cohan was the big winner with his feature debut No Return picking up the top prize of the € 15,000 Transilvania Trophy and the Best Screenplay Award for the script written with his wife Ana.

    The Argentine-Spanish co-productionhad premiered last year at the Valladolid Film Festival where it won Best Film, Best New Director and the FIPRESCI Prize.

    The TIFF International Jury, which included producers Cedomir Kolar, Uberto Pasolini and Romanian director Radu Muntean, described Cohan’s debut as „the most accomplished film in the competition lineup, a discourse on ethics disguised as a high-quality detective story, which was shortlisted by the jury, for almost every possible trophy.“

    Meanwhile, the Best Directing Award was shared between Rúnar Rúnarsson for Volcano and Constantin Popescu’s Principles Of Life, and the Special Jury Award went to Spain’s Federico Veiroj for A Useful Life.

    French actress Elodie Bouchez received the Best Acting Award for „an uncompromising, right and credible performance“ in debutant Zeina Durra’s The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, and the Best Cinematography Award was presented to Linda Wassberg for her camerawork on She-Monkeys by Swedish filmmaker Linda Aschan.

    Viewing films in the Wasted Youth sidebar, the FIPRESCI international critics‘ jury gave its prize this year to Serbian filmmaker Nikola Lezaic’s feature debut Tilva Rosh which had premiered at last year’s Locarno Film Festival.

    The critics said that the film is „a slice of life which has universal appeal and it’s done with so much innocence that it has really conquered our hearts.“ The production by Film House Kiselo Dete will be released theatrically in Romania by Transilvania Film and has been selected by VODO for its free-to-share distribution platform.

    At the same time, Belgian actor Maarten Mertens was on hand to accept the Audience Award on behalf of his director Hans Van Nuffel for the feature debut Oxygen.

    Filmmaker Cristi Puiu came on stage to hand over a special award on the occasion of TIFF’s anniversary to DoP Oleg Mutu who had lensed his award-winning The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, while colleague Corneliu Porumboiu was joined by TIFF artistic director Mihai Chirilov to present this year’s Excellence Award to veteran Romanian director Lucian Pintilie, who was the subject of the first complete retrospective of his oeuvre to be staged in his native country. Pintilie is widely regarded as the key inspiration for the filmmakers of the new wave of Romanian filmmakers and Porumboiu said on stage that when he was a young boy, his dream was to grow up and be like Pintilie.

    Due to health reasons, British actor Michael York could not travel to Cluj to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Personality of the European Cinema, but sent a video message expressing his wish to come to the festival in the future to receive the distinction in person.

    However, actress Jacqueline Bisset graced TIFF with her uncomplicated and charming presence  to accept the festival’s Special Award for the Contribution to the World Cinema. She told the audience that she was looking forward to catching up on the new Romanian cinema via the DVD box of 11 debuts which was launched during TIFF, since she had little chance to see films from other countries in her home in L.A.

    TIFF’s 10th birthday was also an opportunity to recognise the achievements of the Romanian-born producer-distributor-exhibitor-director Marin Karmitz with a Special Award and present Lifetime Achievement Awards to veteran Romanian actor George Motoi and Italian actor-director Michele Placido who is still known and revered by Romanian audiences from his TV crime series La Piovra.

    Indeed, Placido was taken with the festival and his hosts‘ hospitality that he promised to return with his whole family to the festival at a future date!

    Meanwhile, the parallel Romanian Days (9-11 June), which attracted some 200 participants from home and abroad, offered a comprehensive overview of current production output with screenings of new feature films, documentaries and shorts „made in Romania“

    This year’s Romanian Days Award for Best Feature Film went to Marian Crisan’s Morgen, which had premiered in Locarno last year, while Bogdan George Apetri’s Outbound – another title premiering in Locarno last August – was named Best Debut.

    Bogdan Mirica’s Pythonesque Bora Bora was considered the Best Romanian short by the jury in a year when the new feature films failed to ignite the levels of enthusiasm among festival selectors and sales companies that had been witnessed at the 2010 edition of the Romanian Days.

    In fact, the two programmes of Romanian shorts proved to be more engrossing and offered hope that there could be some comedic directorial talents around the corner. Apart from the aforementioned Bora Bora, Nicolae Constantin Tanase’s Outrageously Disco, Victor Dragomir’s Strung Love and Sabin Dorohoi’s Transylvania Girl were proof that the Romanians have a healthy sense of humour, while Anca Miruna Lazarescu’s Silent River and Ioana Uricaru’s Stopover were other highlights in this year’s crop.

    More information about the festival can be found at www.tiff.ro.

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