The Black Sea Film Festival: one more reason to be in Vama Veche this summer

by Sean Hillen

If Radu Munteanu could be cloned – which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility in these days of advanced technology, and in this case a good thing for society at large –  he’d organize three festivals a year and direct three full-length movies.

As it is, at least for now, there’s only one of him so he’s doing half of that – organizing three separate festivals, the Black Sea Film Festival, the Bucharest Short Film Festival and Transilvania Shorts.

I met him at the former, between the Moon, the Stars and the Sea, at ‘Dincolo’ (meaning ‘There’ in English), a funky bar at the edge of Vama Veche overlooking Romania’s Black Sea, close to the Bulgarian border.

Radu Munteanu festival director shorts, the black sea film festival

Statistics reflect the diversity, complexity and sheer hard-work, all integral elements of the Black Sea Film Festival. Radu and his team have put together a Black Sea Film Festival that encompasses 46 short and long films from many countries including the US, Hungary, Belgium, France, Italy, China, Armenia, Turkey and Germany, all shown in a six-day period, in this the festival’s third edition.

As for Radu’s mission, that is easy to explain, harder to do, which is why my admiration for him knows no bounds. He’s beyond passionate about films. He has placed his passion into practice. With a festival team that varies, but is often between four and six people, he and they together decide what movies they’ll choose.

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“We don’t focus on particular subjects, our choices are based on good quality,” he said, sipping on a soft drink. “We watch films and have highly argumentative discussions, which is good as it shows everyone cares about what they do and about films.”

Ultimately, Radu, from Piatra Neamt in Moldova, wants to educate.

“I’d like to be known as someone who helps people appreciate film-making as an art form, and be entertained at the same time,” he said.

And without any external finance whatsoever.

“It’s truly an independent film festival,” he said proudly.

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As for the future, like any creative artist, Radu wants to expand, to add more elements to his festival, including interesting persons such as directors, actresses and actors. To an extent, he has already begun this process of expansion, having invited lead singer of the band, Vunk, Cornel Ilie, to speak at last Sunday evening’s showing of the 100-minute film, ‘I Swear To Tell The Truth.’ Also present at the showing were drummer, Nicu Sarghea, and the film’s editor.

But Radu doesn’t want his festivals to become overly commercial.

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“Some film festivals have too few films and too much talking,” he added. “I don’t want mine to be that way.”

His record so far shows he has succeeded. Last year’s edition of the Bucharest Short Film Festival, for example, featured 87 films.

There’s few people more qualified than this 34-year-old man, who has lived in Bucharest for the last 16 years. He studied film for four years, two years at Hyperion, and two years at MediaPro and also co-directed two feature films, ‘Ultimul Corupt Din Romania,’ (The Last Corrupted in Romania) the last film directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu, Radu’s mentor, before he died. And ‘Billion Star Hotel’ directed by Alecs Nastoiu.

radu munteanu film festival director, sean hillen travel writer, vama veche film festivalWhy Vama Veche for the Black Sea Film Festival?
“A friend, Sorin Tansanu, once told me there was no film festival happening at the seaside and that I should do one there,” Radu explains. “He said, ‘people want to watch movies, especially under the stars at night.’ ”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“Vama Veche, in part due to its colourful history of hippie artists, was a good choice but we needed to find shadow there, and that isn’t easy anymore,” he added. “But then I found this wonderful amphitheater at ‘Dincolo,’ with terrific ambience.” The attractive atmosphere here is captured superbly by the festival’s evocative poster.

Radu, who has little time for doing anything else after organising his three annual film festivals, is involved in every aspect of the operations – from choice of films to be shown to graphics and trailers.

radu munteanu film festival, short film festival romania

There are still several evenings left of the international Black Sea Film festival so mark it ‘Urgent’ on your schedule. Drop by ‘Dincolo’ just before 9 pm and grab a cold beer or a tasty cocktail as you pass through the bar area to what must be one of the most inspiring, romantic film presentation locations in Europe, if not the world.

Diversity of the films at the festival is impressive, from humor, including the madcap variety, to pathos, philosophy to sheer sadness and tragedy. From the complexity of personal relationships, to the horrors of war and its aftermath, to music and music-makers. And that’s just films such as ‘Year of the Monkey’ directed by Vladimir Blazevski; ‘The Last Inhabitant’ (Jivan Avetisyan); ‘Employee of the Month’ (Caroline Schwartz); ‘Melody Makers’ (Leslie Ann Coles); ‘Family for Sale’ (Sebastien Petretti); ‘Bagheera’ (Christopher Watson) and ‘Bill Evans Time Remembered’ (Bruce Spiegel). There are so many more.

Media partners for this year’s Black Sea Film Festival include Radio Romania Constanta, Movie News, Revista Zepellin, Bizz On Wheels, Evenimente Constanta, Filme-Carti,  Ziarul Metropolis and The Romania Journal.

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