Transylvania film fest largest yet

Transylvania film fest largest yet

CLUJ-NAPOCA, Romania -- "Because I was born a vampire, I feel at home here," quipped German actor Udo Kier at the fifth annual Transylvania International Film Festival, which unspooled here June 2-11.

The veteran horror-meister -- who became a cult star after playing Count Dracula -- was in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca to present a marathon screening of Lars von Trier's miniseries "The Kingdom," in which he stars.

The Kier press conference was held, fittingly, on June 6 at 6 p.m. But don't get the wrong picture. Though Transylvania's image is inescapably linked to Bram Stoker's fictional count, the film festival in this university town is not about vampires and night creatures. In fact, the Transylvania gathering is the biggest and most important film event in Romania, this year attracting 41,000 spectators (up from 33,000 last year) to the 97 feature-length and 57 short films on exhibit.

The fest lineup included a section for horror and fantasy films, a competition of weird short films and a section for more edgy movies titled No Limits. The event also encompassed open-air screenings, masterclasses, workshops and a seminar on digital shooting aimed at helping aspiring filmmakers. The international guest of honor was Vanessa Redgrave, who received a lifetime achievement award.

But coming off the back of an unprecedented presence at the Festival de Cannes, local fare was bound to take pride of place as the Romanian industry currently basks in its biggest international success in recent history.

"Last year's success with 'The Death of Mr. Lazarescu' by Cristi Puiu, which won (the Cannes sidebar) Un Certain Regard, definitely put Romanian cinema and our festival on the international map," festival director Mihai Chirilov said. This was boosted by a double triumph this year in Cannes, when Corneliu Porumboiu's film "12:08 East of Bucharest" won the Camera d'Or for best first film while Doroteea Petre picked up a best actress award for the Un Certain regard entry "How I Spent the End of the World," directed by Catalin Mitelescu.

Porumboiu's intelligent stripped-down comedy about Romania's 1989 revolution against Communist rule also emerged as the big winner at Cluj-Napoca, taking home three awards: the Transylvania Trophy for best film, the Romanian Days Award for best feature film and the Audience Award. "I never got three awards at once. But I'm most happy for the Audience Award here," the young director said at the closing ceremony.

"One can only hope that this kind of recognition will translate to an upturn in local admissions," Chirilov said.