In an unprecedented milestone for Romanian cinema, Cristian Mungiu has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His movie “Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days” beat out 21 other feature films, directed by such luminaries as the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino and Emir Kusturica.
“For me it’s like a story,” said Mungiu, who produced, wrote and directed the winning entry. “One year ago I wasn’t even thinking about this project, and six months ago I didn’t even have the money.”
“This trophy is good news for the low-budget movies without stars,” he added, after being handed the award Sunday (May 27th) night by American actress Jane Fonda. Mungiu’s movie, shot on a budget of 600,000 euros, is set during the rule of the late communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu — a time when abortion was outlawed. A student named Gabita, played by Laura Vasiliu, is seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of her best friend, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), she finds a doctor who is willing to perform the illegal operation, but he wants sex in exchange. The movie focuses on Otilia’s efforts to deal with the situation.
In addition to the Palme d’Or, Mungiu won the International Critics’ Award, granted by the jury of the International Federation of Film Press, and the National Education Award, awarded annually to a movie for its pedagogical contribution. His film will open the Transylvania International Film Festival in Sibiu on Friday.
On Monday, Romanian President Traian Basescu awarded the national order Romanian Star, in the rank of Commander, on Mungiu “for his contribution, by which he asserted himself, as an exponent of the young generation of Romanian directors, to promoting the national cinematography worldwide”.
Basescu also awarded a posthumous decoration to Christian Nemescu, a young director who died in a Bucharest car crash in August 2006. Nemescu’s last film, “California Dreamin'”, won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2007 Cannes festival.
International media reports are describing Mungiu’s triumph as marking the emergence of Romania as a new star of European cinema. London’s Times hailed what it called the “triumph of realism at Cannes”, while France’s Liberation said the Romanian film industry “is beginning to revive from the apocalypse, not only aesthetically, but also financially”.