The best of modern Romanian cinema is now showing in Arizona
Romanian Film Festival
Three Romanian films will be screened on November 19 and 20 at the Majestic 7 Tempe. The other films are streaming online until November 27.
Valley moviegoers have the opportunity to explore the cinema of a small Eastern European country both in a theater this weekend and online as the second annual Romanian Film Festival in Arizona now takes place in the Phoenix area.
The movies have been streaming online for several days, but three are in-person offerings at Majestic Tempe 7.
The festival in Arizona is an offshoot of the parent effort that has been taking place in Seattle for nearly a decade as part of the American Romanian Cultural Society’s outreach to expose audiences to films from a country to which one don’t think often when it comes to award-winning cinema.
Marie-Louise Paulesc directs the nonprofit branch of the society in Arizona. “There is a large Romanian diaspora here, and I just want to show what Romanian culture has to bring to the table in this wonderful multicultural region,” she said.
Paulesc has lived in the Valley for 17 years and joked on social media in October on her birthday that she was a teenager in the United States.
Listen to Marie-Louise Paulesc’s interview with Tom Maxedon
Paulesc was part of the team that chose the films based on several criteria. “The vision has always been for us too here in Arizona to bring the best of the newer Romanian movies. That was definitely a criteria we used,” she said.
One such in-person film is “Metronom.”
In this film and in most films, the dialogue is spoken in Romanian, but English subtitles are used. The film centers on Ana, a 17-year-old girl who dreams of love and freedom. One evening, while she is partying with her friends, they decide to send a letter to Metronom, the Radio Free Europe music program broadcast clandestinely in Romania. It is based on the true story of how former Romanian communist politician and dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu used his secret police to terrorize people until he was ousted and executed in 1989.
Paulesc said the film and another film received international critical acclaim. “’Metronom’, on November 19, is one of the films awarded at Cannes for direction. The second, [‘The Island,’ streaming online,] was nominated as Best Feature Film at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, which is one of the biggest animation film festivals in the world.
For viewers who may not be the biggest fans of subtitles because they may not feel like “reading” a movie, retired lawyer James Ryan thinks audiences might be surprised at the familiarity of Romanian with the English-speaking ear.
“It’s generally an easier language for Americans to learn, if you speak English. It’s not difficult,” he said.
Ryan began his love of Romanian soon after scoring high on a language proficiency test when he joined the military in 1971.
“I was called out of my basic training company and two army officers offered me to go study a foreign language in Monterey, California instead of going to Vietnam at the time. I looked at this list of languages and they said, ‘You take your pick.’ I knew Romanian was a Romance language. I thought, ‘Let me try this. I’ll take Romanian’. he said.
Ryan has established similarities between Romanian and Latin, French and Spanish, recognizable also to speakers of these languages.
Monica Filimon is an associate professor of English at Kingsborough Community College, part of CUNY in Brooklyn, New York. His role for the festival is that of film critic. In the past, she led the Q&A portion of the film series, but pulled out during the pandemic.
She is excited about a number of movies, including “Immaculate,” a virtual offering, which is also an Oscar entry.
“This film deals with a very current reality, more and more probably in Romania. It centers on a teenager who goes to rehab. It starts in the style of new Romanian cinema with a very realistic foreground of her being interviewed, and then the film changes pace and tone throughout,” she said.
Unlike the style of film made by his contemporaries growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Filimon said the story of “Immaculate” is not set in the reality we perceive every day.
Listen to Monica Filimon’s interview with Tom Maxedon
“It changes pace and at some point you don’t really know what’s real and what’s not. I think that’s a really good approach for new directors – changing the paradigm of a some way,” she said.
In a different way, the second annual Romanian Film Festival is changing the paradigm of cultural opportunities to explore in Arizona as it diversifies.
For students, 30 free tickets are available for each screening, and they can be picked up at the door before each show on a first-come, first-served basis.
Learn more about the films at azarcc.org/romanian-film-fest-arizona. You can also call 480-251-8386.