The Official Competition of Transilvania International Film Festival (May 27-June 5) is extremely diverse this year, and includes films which deconstruct the conventions of the horror, thriller, romance, and western genres. Made by first- and second-time directors, the 12 films competing for the Transilvania Trophy come from 16 countries: France, Tunisia, Belgium, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, India, Bulgaria, Romania, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, France, Cambodia, Spain, and, for the first time in the history of the festival, Vanuatu. Nine out of the 12 are first feature films.
"The first movie I've invited in the competition of this edition was Island City, while the last confirmed was De l'ombre il y a. The former is a terribly inventive and carefully calibrated omnibus film where each of the three episodes corresponds to a different film genre. The latter defies narrative conventions and casually evades labeling, thus creating a cinematic experience of visceral beauty and emotion. They couldn't have been more different from each other, and the other ten films in competition are similarly diverse,” says TIFF Artistic Director Mihai Chirilov.
"Extremely diverse is also the Romanian presence in the international competition, which is more than welcome after several years of absence from the main competition: the foreign production Shelley is a pure example of horror cinema which gives actress Cosmina Stratan an excellent and complex part, Bogdan Mirică's debut feature film Dogs / Câini turns genre and New Wave conventions on their heads and offers a genuine Balkan anti-western,” adds Chirilov.
The only Romanian film in competition is Dogs, the debut feature of director Bogdan Mirică, screenwriter and co-director of HBO series Umbre (Shadows). The film will be screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year, and will premiere domestically during TIFF. The thriller, which stars Dragoș Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, and Gheorghe Visu, follows Roman, a young man who arrives in a remote village in Dobrogea, where he witnesses bizarre events.
Shelley by first-time Iranian director Ali Abbasi is a horror reminiscent of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby – a pregnancy controlled by evil powers becomes a threat to the surrogate mother played by Cosmina Stratan (Beyond the Hills). As I Open My Eyes, the impressive debut of director Lyla Bouzid, which premiered in the Venice 2015 competition, tells the story of a teenager who discovers rebellion, protest, and the dangers of an oppressive regime on the brink of the 2010 Tunisian revolution.
Five years after winning the Best Director Award for Volcano Icelander Rúnar Rúnarsson returns to Cluj with his second feature, Sparrows. Winner of the Best Film Award in San Sebastian, Sparrows tells the coming of age story of Ari, a teenager forced by circumstances to revisit his dysfunctional relationship with an alcoholic father. Tanna, recipient of the Audience Award at Venice 2015, was shot entirely by documentary filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler in Vanuatu, an island country in the Pacific. Inspired by a tragic local story, the film tells a classic tale of forbidden love, starring the real inhabitants of the island.
Fado, the debut film by director Jonas Rothlaender, is the story of a couple who want to give a second chance to their relationship, but allow old patterns of behavior to generate an obsessive interdependence. Island City, the first feature film by Ruchika Oberoi, is an introduction into contemporary Mumbai by means of three stories of alienation and control.
Thirst, screened at San Sebastian 2015, is the strong and confident debut of Svetla Tsotsorkova, whose affinity for minimalist dialogue and Chekhovian theatre can be found in a story that takes place in the poorest rural area in Bulgaria.In Tikkun, a young man abruptly switches from religious fanaticism to contempt for religion in the aftermath of a near-fatal accident. According to Screen Daily, this debut feature demonstrates that Avishai Visan could become the Lars von Trier of Israeli cinema.
Remainder by Omer Fast, the adaptation of a famous short story, is a psychological thriller about the importance of memory in building identity. La Puerta Abierta, the debut film of Marina Seresesky, is a tragicomedy set in Madrid and centered on the rocky relationship between two prostitutes — a mother and her daughter. In De l’ombre il y a, by Nathan Nicholovitch, a transvestite discovers his paternal side after meeting a young prostitute.
The four members of the 2016 TIFF Competition Jury are: Wieland Speck, curator of the Berlinale Panorama section; Bill Guentzler, artistic director of the Cleveland International Film Festival; Bulgarian actress Margita Gosheva, recipient of the Acting Award for The Lesson at TIFF 2015; and Polish director Tomasz Wasilewski, recipient of the Best Director Award for Floating Skyscrapers at TIFF 2014, and also present this year out of competition with United States of Love.