TIFF 2017: Soldiers. Story from Ferentari

A few notes that will hopefully convince you to go see Ivana Mladenovic’s world premiere and feature debut.

Born in the Serbian city of Kladovo, where the Danube river borders Romania and Serbia and most of the people speak both languages, Ivana went to Bucharest to study film and theatre (“alum of Bucharest’s UNATC I.L. Caragiale, as an actress Mladenovic starred in Radu Jude’s “Scarred Hearts,” a 2016 Locarno Special Jury Prize winner” – source).

She did short films and a full length documentary before “Soldiers”.

She has directed the short films Milky Way (07), Pizza Love (08), andAfterparty (09), and the documentary Turn Off The Lights (12). (source: tiff.net)

“Soldiers. Story from Ferentari” is not only a world premiere, but Ivana’s narrative feature debut. She will definitely remember Toronto for this.

Soldiers. Story from Ferentari (photo courtesy of TIFF)

And so I went to see the Press & Industry screening on Saturday 9 September 2017 at the festival, ahead of the world premiere on Sunday (4:15 PM in Scotia 10; check all screenings here – 11, 14 and 16 September).

Here are some notes I took (the movie is so fresh that it doesn’t even have a page on IMDB), with the warm recommendation to go see the movie. Like other Romanian cinema gems, it is not guaranteed it will be screened in North America again, while Netflix Canada is a lost hope to art cinema, as we know.

WHAT THE MOVIE IS and IS NOT

  • It is a bittersweet gay love story set in the gypsy neighborhood of Ferentari, a district of Bucharest, Romania’s capital. If discovered, the lovers will have “their legs broken”
  • It is a succulent, lifelike and funny script that’s the merit of Adrian Schiop – who also acts as one of the two main characters in the movie. The language is probably a “rated R” by North American standards.
  • It is shot with non-professional actors except for the core team. I couldn’t even make a decision if “Alberto”, the other main lead, is a professional or not (played by Vasile Pavel – Digudai).
  • It is not an in-depth study about “manele”, the “Romanian gypsy pop”  that was illegal during communism and blasted out into a full-blown genre after the revolution of 1989. However, it has two lively feature sets (one in a manele dance hall and another one at a wedding) highlighting the genre. There is also a telling scene with a manele superstar and producer.
  • It is not a “Black Cat, White Cat” like dark comedy with gypsies.  But neither is a gritty portrait of slum life.
  • It has a top rated producing team:Munich-based Beta Cinema is partnering with Berlin Golden Bear-winning Romanian producer Ada Solomon (“Child’s Pose,” “Aferim,” ’Toni Erdmann”) on “Soldiers. A Story from Ferentari,” a contemporary gay love story set in the notorious Roma neighborhood of Ferentari, on the outskirts of Bucharest.
  • Beta Cinema will handle world sales rights on the film, the narrative feature debut of Serbia’s Ivana Mladenovic, whose caché has grown steadily given its backing – Solomon at Romania’s Hi Film Productions, Serbia’s Film House Bas Celik, Belgium’s Frakas Prods – and selection, announced earlier this week, for the Toronto Festival’s Discovery section.
  • Buzz was already been growing on the title before the announcement in early August of its main competition berth at San Sebastian Festival, with several sales agents talking up the title. It has finally been tied down by Beta Cinema, a prestige sales house whose Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian slate of selected and upcoming titles mixes emerging talent with name auteurs such as Israel’s Eran Riklis (“Shelter”) and “The Lives of Others’” Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“Werk Ohne Autor”). (source – variety.com)

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