It is true that the main reason we have a poster for the series on our TA Office door is that Cristina, one of my art history colleagues, is from Romania and was involved in putting it all together. There are, however, posters pretty well distributed around campus and in local cafes; Irina Livezeanu, who curated the series, assured me that there was a strong postering effort and that press releases and PSAs were sent out. I even found the films listed on our Student Events Calendar (admittedly rather incorrectly, giving the impression that every film shows every night), which bills itself as "the ultimate guide to life outside the classroom" but is in fact nothing of the kind. (In its defense, perhaps no one submits events to it? It only lists four events for today, which is rather thin for a university of "about 34,000 students.")
Anyhow, I wasn't paying attention, so I missed the opening film of the series, the classic The Reenactment, which I hear was excellent. On Friday afternoon I did manage to get to a lecture by visiting film critic Alex Leo Serban, which provided something of an introduction to recent Romanian cinema to ignorant parties like me who were unaware that Romanian film is currently, and for the first time in its history, the height of fashion. Apparently these films are winning international awards right and left, but no one in Romania goes to the movies anymore. There are, it seems, only thirty movie theaters left in the entire country. (The younger generation, one student informed us, downloads all its films off the internet. I was surprised that the Romanian public has so much bandwidth at their disposal, since when my friend Betty sent a link to her son's latest film project the other day, my DSL connection wasn't quite fast enough to watch it smoothly.)
I was a bit surprised by Romanian lack of interest in Romanian cinema, as while the Czechs like to complain that their film industry is poorly funded and that not enough films can be made, the urban Czech public, at least, seems eager to see films in the theater. On the other hand, the Czech situation has never seemed to have very much in common with the Romanian, and as regards film, the Czechs have been making very well-regarded films practically since the beginning of time. I did not get the impression that the Romanians had such a long love affair with cinema.
The film shown Friday night, Stuff and Dough (Marfa şi banii) was a worthy effort, but I confess that after a certain point it failed to hold my interest. Yes, it deals realistically with current social problems, but let's just say that I've seen my share of films about long road trips; ditto films about inarticulate, directionless, uneducated, and unintelligent youth; ditto films about post-revolutionary Eastern European crime and social malaise. After a certain point I was very anxious for the protagonists to reach Bucharest and stop having boring conversations; and I'm afraid that nothing about the film's end was at all surprising to me, it was pretty much exactly what I expected. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the dialog was more engaging in Romanian. When I watch Czech films, I always catch at least a few nuances in the original that just don't get into the subtitles. But I can't say I have cared for all of the recent well-regarded Czech films either. I've been known to enjoy road-trip films (I liked Výlet, for instance, and for that matter Ross McElwee's Sherman's March although that's not quite your standard road-trip film), and I'm not immune to the lure of gritty, depressing films about criminals, disaffected youth, or post-revolutionary malaise. Still, something has to grab me. Perhaps I feel sympathetic toward the characters. Perhaps something appeals to my twisted sense of humor. Perhaps the cinematography and scenery are captivating. Perhaps the soundtrack hooks me (I'm convinced that Fargo works partly because of the music).
Oh well. More films are coming up, and I will get to at least some of them. With luck, I too will get all excited about contemporary Romanian film.