That’s how Mihai described my task and pushed me to be very subjective on this. Somehow I feel TIFF is more than my pet-project, but my family, my tree of life. Didn’t see yet Malick film but I do believe in being wondered by the mysteries of nature or of the human spirit. The yearly success of Transilvania Intl Film Festival is a continuous miracle mostly because it was a project born out of love for film and the desperate need for an event which, eventually, would put Romania on the movie map. It was year 2001 when Romanian film landscape was bleak, no film has been made in 2000 so I had to face the dylemma of either doing series of commercials and music vids as a director, or step back and try to build something sustainable in the film area. I have chosen the second option and did not regret it at all.
In 10 years, TIFF became the most solid platform for promotion of Romanian cinema and helped susbtantially the new generation of filmmakers, branded by foreign film critics as the Romanian New Wave. The industry days of the festival, the so-called „The Romanian Days” are gathering annually festival representatives, sales agents, distributors, producers, critics, all interested in both discovering new Romanian talents and re-discovering the early work of Romanian masters such as Liviu Ciulei or Lucian Pintilie.
Out of 10 years there are so many memories and histories to tell and my brain is working like following dadaistic impulses. Beside showing edgy and provocative films, TIFF was a great place of encounters. 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 gets possible. I have friends who finally married after their 1st meeting in Cluj, others broke up their relationships as to be together with the one rediscovered in Cluj after more than 30 years. TIFF former volunteers or movie fans became in 10 years our day-to-day collaborators and colleagues. Who can forget the super HBO parties from Diesel Club and the morning auroras as seen from the big square of Cluj?
Or the taste of red wine while talking about life and its complications with Vanessa Redgrave or Julie Delpy? And my memory keeps going in circles about… the crazy duo Delepine/Kervern who were irresistible when presenting Aaltra on stage. Or about legendary Romanian actor Florin Piersic and his moment from 2009 Closing Gala with Claudia Cardinale. About the many kids who were first studying film at our „Let’s Go Digital” workshop and now are graduates of the Film School and already prize-winners with their short films around the globe. About beloving critics Ron Holloway and Alex. Leo Serban, the festival’s most dear friends, who are unable to be this us anymore… Or the encounters with special characters such as Lukas Moodysson, Udo Kier or Todd Solondz. Or the pictures with our flagship cinema formerly known as „Republica”, during the screenings of „4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” or „Death of Mr. Lazarescu”: packed audience, people occupying every inch of a free stair. It looked definitely like a Bollywood show.
But the most dearest moments are for sure related to the weeks before starting the 1st festival, when we had not enough money to make it and it was just the ambition of proving „we can do it”. How can I forget the long overnight journeys by train Bucharest-Cluj, when both me and Mihai were working on festival’s schedule?
Wim Wenders, questioned recently by Variety about Cluj and its TIFF said here he found a spirit close to what you can experience in Sundance. But this special Festival spirit is born not just because of the magic of Cluj and its warm audience, it’s also because of the power of contrasts. Contrasts between me and Mihai – we work amazing together mostly because we are so different and my disordered discipline matches perfect with his logical chaos – or contrasts between Bucharest team and Cluj team, north and south, action and slowness.
My son grew up with the festival and now, at its 4th anniversary, keeps telling me he wants to go to Cluj to „his TIFF”. And maybe he’s right, everybody has its own TIFF. I have enjoyed mine so much and it still gives me energy to keep going on and on, again and again.