Interview with Mirona Radu, BIFF program manager. The 17th edition of the Bucharest International Film Festival (BIFF) will take place between September 3rd and 12th, 2021, in Bucharest and will showcase award-winning films at prestigious international festivals and as well world premieres.
Mirona, how old are you and how did you start loving cinema?
In November I turn 35 and I would say that it’s been over 25 years since I love cinema. As a child I would go to the cinema in Slănic, the city of my childhood. This modest cinema was right next to the school, so I passed by it every day. In addition, school meetings were organized at the time in the cinema hall – so it was well imprinted in my mind and heart that the cinema means more than movies, it means the joy of being together. On the other hand, because my aunt worked in film production, I remember how at home in Slănic film crews sometimes came, and how enchanted I was by the effervescent, magical discussions they had until late in the evening. So I could say that I started to love filmmakers even before loving film as a means of artistic expression and as a means of reaching oneself and also others, and I think I have remained faithful to this first love.
When was the first time you went to the cinema and which was the film that marked your childhood / adolescence the most?
I don’t know when was the first, because I have many memories in the cinema since I was small. It’s interesting how I remember the atmosphere, the small dark room, the fact that I was going to the movies with my good friends, people from Bucharest who came on vacation to their grandparents. We were playing in the street and sometimes we would end up in the movie theater, and when I came home at my grandmother’s it was already getting dark. I didn’t see auteur films, they were commercial films brought in Slănic, but at that time I felt the cinema as a special universe, that attracted me like a magnet through its unique stories, and that fully challenged my imagination as a child / adolescent. However, if I were to give some titles that I later saw in adolescence and not necessarily at the movie theater, but which I remember with pleasure even now – they would be American Beauty, Godfather, Trainspotting, Leon, Forrest Gump etc.
What is your favorite movie today?
Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen! I love this movie, I love the director’s courage for the special approach to the theme, it’s a movie I’ve watched many times and I would watch it again, feeling that I get rich, because after every viewing I would like to make the world a better and more beautiful place as much as I can… Compared to other movies I love – like Fellini’s 8 ½ or Tarlovsky’s Andrei Rubliov, Festen has a sincerity, a lightness, an incredible simplicity, that I have rarely found in other films. I think the real works of art should be like that – simple and mind-blowing at the same time, with no obvious construction or directorial ornaments that accompany you and remind you at every step that you are in the story of the author. You’re in the author’s story, but I think it should be a meeting halfway through – you reconnect with yourself with all your life experience and cultural experience – and emotion of reuniting with yourself is a delight and is essential. At least that’s what I’m looking for in a film.
If you could have any budget, any director and any actors, what film would you like to make?
A film directed by me, for sure. I’ve been preparing my debut for a few years, and it will probably take a few more. But I don’t think money is the issue, although I’m sure you can have access to a higher budget for certain actors, for certain filming locations, for specialized consultancy.
I think you need to practice to gain confidence. In my opinion, talent and artistic emotion must be practiced.
How did you start with BIFF and what novelties does this year’s edition bring compared to previous editions?
I was very honored to receive the proposal of Dana Dimitriu Chelba, the director of the festival, to join this festival in which I strongly believe. By the way, I recently remembered that I participated as a spectator since the first edition – it’s a festival that I took part in each year for the films and for the high-profile guests. And then what could be more important in Bucharest than Bucharest International Film Festival? It should be the event prestige of the capital. Last fall, Dana was looking for someone on the PR side of the festival, but I don’t think I would have been the right person – my expertise is in curating, programming, festival management – so I proposed this option, and she accepted.
We added a few sections together, rethought the old ones and added the masterclass component that I consider vital – a festival should also be a cinematographic educational platform. From here things should develop, I am a believer in small and safe steps according to a strategy that allows you to get where you wish to go.
What are the guests and events of this year’s edition?
The festival means film screenings, Q & A sessions with some of the guest authors in Bucharest, masterclasses, industry meetings and networking. We are aware that we are still in a difficult period as a result of the epidemic – so at least in the last few weeks we’ve had to readjust the program or think about a few meetings on digital platforms and not in person, as we would have enjoyed. But I still think above all, our safety and health are the most important, so we will adapt to the situation in September.
The movies were perhaps the number 1 concern of many people during the lockdown and even during the pandemic, when cinemas were closed. Were you afraid then at some point that the era of cinemas was coming to an end and that all film production will be adapted for homeview? Or rather you believe in the magic of the movie theater, of the big screen?
I’m an optimistic person, I didn’t think we wouldn’t go back to the cinema, even if we would have to wait a long time to be close to each other again. The film is a social experience for me. Seeing a film alone is not enough, discussions about it are essential for me as well as post-viewing ideas, meeting others and generalizing perspectives on life with the authors or other viewers.
How do you feel about the experience of watching movies at home, compared to the experience of watching movies in the cinema?
Personally, I don’t even feel comfortable watching a movie at home, but in terms of my profession, I watch a few dozen movies a month for the movies or festivals I work with. When I have the chance to see them again on the big screen, it’s like watching other, much stronger movies. It is wonderful to enter the imagined world completely, not to be distracted by the small problems of the everyday world, not to be able to pause. To here and now with the film you dedicated your time to.
How is BIFF compared to TIFF?
What a good thing there’s BIFF, and TIFF, and Film O’Clock, and so on. There is room for everyone and I think what we do is feed the audience with quality events and put a brick at the citadel of cinephiles, each according to his own power and according to the financial means which we can attract.
How are Romanian films represented at BIFF?
This year I created a new section that I called Romanian Authors, where we present Romanian productions, both feature films and short films, in the presence of the creative teams. We are glad to bring Oana Giurgiu’s documentary – Spies for the first time in Bucharest. Personally, I am very happy that we are also bringing Vali Hotea’s Lebensdorf for a special screening, a movie with Mimi Brănescu, Ana Covalciuc and Ioana Flora, actors I actually love. A movie about searching, discoveries and rediscovery, about responsibility and freedom, that I consider should not be missed. Other surprises and other titles will be announced soon on the festival website.
How do you think the Romanian cinema has evolved in recent years?
I think there are searches here as well. I feel that more than a favorable situation is needed for certain titles. I feel that there are missing or that there are very few real authors with foundation and honesty in their creations. I think we had better years, but I think contemporary explorations are important as well.
What surprising foreign films do you recommend from the BIFF program?
From the Panorama section, surprising artistic discourses for me are Michel Franco’s New Order, as well as Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. From the Focus Greece section we have Digger signed by Georgis Grigorakis. We also have an exceptional film world premiering at BIFF by Rafael Kapelinski – a film like a chamber concert, a jewel film – A woman at night.
From the Official Competition I recommend all seven – they are made by authors at the beginning of their career, brave, with very different stories – from Iran, Singapore, Serbia, Kosovo, France, Denmark, etc. – with very different artistic approaches, offering spectators a diverse and rich palette that emphasizes the power of cinema as a vehicle of emotions and ideas.
Stay ‘tuned’ for another interview on BIFF, with Dana Dimitriu – Chelba, the festival manager.