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Cristian Mungiu Press Conference at Thessaloniki International Film Festival
8 November 2012
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Romanian director Cristian Mungiu held a Press Conference on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 as part of the 53rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Mr. Dimitri Eipides, director of the Festival, was present. The Balkan Survey section of this year’s edition is holding a comprehensive tribute to the director’s work; he is is one of the most important representatives of the Romanian cinema New Wave.

Cristian Mungiu Press Conference PART 1

Cristian Mungiu Press Conference Part 2

Opening the Press Conference, which was coordinated by Balkan Survey section head Dimitris Kerkinos, Mr. Eipides noted: “It is an honour for us to be holding a comprehensive tribute to the leading Romanian director Cristian Mungiu. I adore his work and I thank him for being here with us”. The TIFF director also referred to Romanian cinema in general, stressing that it is an example to Greek filmmakers as it had humble beginnings and low budgets, but nevertheless managed to win the interest and love of international audiences.

“I am very happy and honoured to be at the Thessaloniki Festival, as this is the first comprehensive retrospective tribute to my work. I first won the audience award at Thessaloniki and we all know that in cinema, this is the most important award”, Cristian Mungiu stated.

Referring to the blossoming of Romanian cinema during the last decade, Mr. Mungiu noted that it began with the reaction of filmmakers to the cinema of the past. “Then, the international successes of certain directors motivated the rest to keep to a certain level so we began to have a good response at various festivals with the result that gradually each director developed a personal ethos”. Cristian Mungiu’s films are very popular in Romania, especially following his winning the Palm d’Or at Cannes in 2007 for his film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. “Although the film’s subject had created a controversy, winning the award stimulated people’s interest. It began a public dialogue on the issue of abortions in Romania”, he noted. As he said, that year he organised a film caravan, screening the film in places where there weren’t even any cinemas. The film had over 400,000 admissions, and was the most successful film of the year. However, in the years following Romania was filled with multiplex cinemas, which as a rule screen American films, and there are very few remaining arthouse cinemas. “My films continue to be popular, but not the most popular of the year. I believe Romanians respect me for the international recognition I have received, even if they have not seen my films”, the director commented.

Asked how he chooses the subject of his films, he explained that life itself is the source of his inspiration. “I allow life to inspire me with its complexity, I am not inspired by other films which are already an interpretation of it. The subject I choose each time has to do with what concerns me in my life. For example, I shot 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days when I was about to become a father. Now that I have two children, I am concerned with what to tell them about the role of religion in society, which is why I made my latest film Beyond the Hills. Also, I often choose everyday subjects, things I might read about in the newspapers”.

Women play a key role in many Mungiu films. The director stated: “Perhaps because I want to highlight dysfunctional aspects of society such as violence and aggression, and women are much more vulnerable”. According to him his point of view is apparent from his choice of subject matter. “I prefer to focus on the issue and not on my opinion on it. I wish to create the framework and give the viewer all necessary information, so that he can think about the issue himself. I don’t want to give him pre-digested food”. The director uses the same method with his actors. “I tell them not to think about concepts and meanings, not to judge the characters, but to find elements within themselves in the roles and concentrate on the moment. It is important to not reduce your work to concepts, because that way you don’t reduce the meaning which can be interpreted from different angles”, the director noted.

Cristian Mungiu often uses single takes, so that his subjects can reflect in their real dimensions and in real time, “Because this is the result of my point of view on cinema”, he explained. There are even scenes that last five or ten minutes and have been shot using this technique. “I could trigger deep feelings with music or a close up. But this is a trick. I don’t create shots from weird angles, I don’t edit much, so that the viewer sees what is happening in “real time” and can form a correct opinion. I don’t make compromises so that the audience will like the film, and I believe that the viewers feel the sincerity of a filmmaker even if they don’t understand how the film was made”.

Can cinema provide solutions? Answering this question Cristian Mungiu stated: “I would like to have this illusion, but I don’t believe that cinema can change the world. What it can do is stimulate people to think, and then, analyzing a subject, arrive at their own conclusions. It is important to re-examine our opinions and question our principles about important things in life, and cinema can give us this stimulus. It can be the starting point for a public debate about the film’s subject which can go beyond the story that the film narrates”.

Closing the Press Conference, Cristian Mungiu referred to the best comment he heard about a film of his, which came during the Q & A following a screening. “Someone told me ‘I came in with many prejudices, and I’m leaving with fewer’. That was the best compliment”. 
  4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
  Beyond the Hills
  Cristian Mungiu
  Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Cobra Film
  Cristian Mungiu Tribute at Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  Why Romanian cinema is great by Olivier Pere
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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