A provincial television station decides that it's going to produce a show on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the fall of the communist government, focusing on what transpired in that town at the exact time that Ceau'escu fell. Unhappily, the only two eye witnesses the station can find are a hard-drinking history teacher and an elderly retiree who works as part-time Santa Claus.
The show begins, and the two panel guests pour out their versions of what happened on Dec. 22, 1989. It doesn't take long for viewers to start phoning in their own versions of that day, often taking the eye witnesses to task for what they think are outright distortions. History -- who remembers, and how -- is at the heart of Corneliu Porumboiu's 12:08 East of Bucharest, co-winner of the Camera D'Or (Best First Film) at 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Porumboiu cleverly captures how even recent historical events take on shape and meaning according to how they explain or justify the present. — Richard Pena, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center
This is the first film of Corneliu Porumboiu, who was followed this year by “Police, adjective”, awarded again in Cannes, and premiered in US at the 2009 New York Film Festival, and very well received by critics.
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Original Title: A fost sau n-a fost?
Romania, 2006, 89 min.
This film is part of the series The Romanian New Wave, a special Cinemondo presentation brought to you by Link TV in association with the Romanian Cultural Institute, New York.
Starting in 2001, Romanian cinema surprised the world with a group of new filmmakers in their late thirties. Their movies - intense, dark humored and down to earth - were consistent with a radical belief that film in Romania could break through artistically. Responding to the hectic and sometimes chaotic post-Communist landscape, they took simple life stories and urban fables, and turned them into globally affecting films.
Broadly acclaimed by the international film press, and stubbornly productive despite a lack of resources, these young directors were regarded at first with disdain by Romanian critics. Yet slowly but surely they gained legitimacy, winning awards at Cannes and other major film festivals, and in the process putting Romanian cinema on the world map.
The films in this special series all come from this “new wave” of Romanian filmmakers. Few of them have had any theatrical exposure in the U.S., and through Cinemondo will reach a nationwide TV audience for the first time. Among the many highlights are Cristi Puiu’s Stuff and Dough, Porumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, Muntean’s The Paper Will Be Blue, and Nemescu’s Marilena From P7. Because documentary filmmaking has flourished alongside fictional films in Romania, three outstanding works are included in the series: Bar de Zi, Cold Waves and Testimony.
The Romanian New Wave series is a joint project of Link TV and the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, which arranged for these gems of world cinema to appear on Cinemondo and reach millions of American homes. Enjoy!
Corina Suteu, Director, Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Steven Lawrence, Vice President, Music & Cultural Programming, Link TV