Shorts

11pm 

Directed by Alex Sava

Romania, 2008

Color, 12 minutes

Cast: Razvan Barseti, Dragos Danila, Sebastian Grigore, Daniel Ilies, Razvan Tache, Marius Times

Time seems both to condense and expand in Sava’s short 11pm. A couple of minutes before 11 o’clock, a group of soccer fans is chasing a man down a dark street, threatening to beat him up. Simultaneously, two friends are getting ready for a wild ride in a fancy car, while a man is trying to fall asleep in his bed. The viewer watches three subsequent scenes, which unfold during the same time interval and focus on more or less deliberate choices made by this mundane cast of characters. In just a matter of seconds, one realizes that the destinies of all these strangers are in fact deeply intertwined.

A Good Day for a Swim

Directed by Bogdan Mustata

Romania, 2007

Color, 9 minutes

Cast: Florin Sinescu, Okan Kaya, George Hoffman, Cerasela Iosifescu, Marian Ghenea

In the glowing light of a sunny morning, a yellow van makes its way towards the seaside. A prostitute waiting on the side of the road draws back in fear when she sees who is driving the vehicle. Yet, little is revealed to the viewer. The suspense grows as the faces of the three teenage delinquents riding in the van are gradually disclosed. There seems to be no limit to the aggressive games of the youthful trio whose violent acts are reminiscent of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, in which a group of schoolboys assume control over an island and fight for supremacy.

Cigarettes and Coffee

Directed by Cristi Puiu

Romania, 2004

Color, 13 minutes

Cast: Mimi Branescu, Mihai Bratila, Victor Rebengiuc

Awards: Golden Bear for the Best Short at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival and Prix UIP, Berlin (European Short Film)

Cigarettes and Coffee eloquently portrays the rift between generations in the post-communist context. A father who is about to lose his job just two years before his retirement resorts to the support of his son to find a new position. Like an intimidated subaltern before his superior, the aging man keeps using the wrong words or making the wrong choices. The dialogue is repetitive and the parent and son apparently agree only about one thing: not much has changed after 1989. While the phrase rings true since one still needs to offer coffee and cigarettes as a bribe, it is also paradoxical and highly ironic since everything is in fact different. The old man can hardly order a bottle of water in a restaurant given the wide range of brands and his dire situation, but he has no choice when it comes to keeping his modest job as a driver. A master of the cinema of the absurd, Cristi Puiu sets up a scene that barely changes visually during the course of the father-son encounter in order to deepen the meaning of the dramatic conclusion reached by the two protagonists: “it’s all the same.”

Exam

Directed by Paul Negoescu

Romania, 2006

Black and white, 12 minutes

Cast: Tudor Aaron Istodor and Maria Dinulescu

Awards: Best Short Film – BucharEST International Film Festival; Best director – Belgrade International Student Film Festival;
Special Mention – NYU Next Frame International Film Festival;
Best Director – Early Bird International Student Film Festival (Sofia);
Jury’s Prize – 7 Arte Film Fest as well as many other director and screenplay prizes

While preparing for an exam in philosophy, a student pays his girlfriend an unexpected visit to ask for help with the final paper. Less concerned about her upcoming tests than he is, she offers to give him one of her old essays on the idea of skepticism. Yet, the tables turn and the girl strives to pass an exam of her own since the young man suspects that she has slept with someone else. Filmed in black and white, the short movie is a poetic reflection on doubt and infidelity.

Liviu’s Dream

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu

Romania, 2004

Color, 39 minutes

Cast: Dragos Bucur, Luiza Cocora, Constantin Dita, Adrian Vancica

Liviu’s existence stands under the sign of unfortunate accidents and meaningless incidents until he is faced with some serious choices that compel him to become responsible for his fate. His birth is the outcome of the communist decree against abortion, he sells whatever goods his pals have stolen, and he is dating Mariana, the fiancée of his best friend, who is working abroad. Nothing makes much sense for the young protagonist struggling to make a living in the midst of post-communist transition. Liviu becomes obsessed with a recurrent dream, which he fails to remember. Desperately searching for an explanation, he interrogates all his friends about their dreams. In the meantime, his own life appears increasingly surreal: he spends most of his day on the roof of an apartment building where everyone in the neighborhood hangs out and sells stolen wedding dresses to more or less ingénue bachelorettes.

The movie is marvelously constructed to reflect Liviu’s emotional turmoil and confusion. His friends are nicknamed Fog and Shadow and are as troubled by their past and present as he is. The motif of water is pervasive throughout the movie. Liviu yearns for a symbolic re-birth as he repeatedly sinks his head in water to wake up from the troublesome dream. Moreover, all characters long for a vacation at the seaside, which stands for the ultimate escape from their claustrophobic existence. Many movie scenes are shot through window frames or doorways to enhance the impression of loose boundaries between dream and reality. At times, Liviu appears to watch the course of his life as a passive onlooker. Yet, unexpected events push him out of this placid state. When Mariana becomes pregnant, he takes a decision that is far from ethical, but apparently changes the course of the girl’s life for the best and serves as a wake-up call for Liviu.

Waves

Directed by Adrian Sitaru

France, Romania, 2007

Color, 16 minutes

Cast: Roberto Bros, Sergiu Costache, Adrian Titieni, Clara Voda, Vlad Voda, Karen Wallet

Awards: Heart of Sarajevo (Short Film), Sarajevo Film Festival 2007; Golden Bayard (Best Short Film), Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film 2007; Leopards of Tomorrow – Best Film, Locarno International Film Festival 2007; Best Short Film, Las Palmas Film Festival 2008; Onda Curta Prize + Young Director Award, Imago – International Young Film and Video Festival, 2008; Best Short Film, Gopos Award 2008; Best Short Film, Dresden Film Festival 2008; BAFTA/LA Award for Excellence – Honorable Mention + Best Direction (Best Short Drama) + Best Cinematography, Aspen Shortsfest 2008

A beautiful Swiss tourist is enjoying a nice day at the seaside with her son. As she decides to go for a swim, she leaves her child in the care of a stranger, who is in fact a thief waiting for the right opportunity to steal her belongings. Trying to flirt with the woman, a middle-aged man volunteers to teach the woman how to swim. Events take a tragic turn and help comes from the least expected source.

Cristina Albu