With a little more than a month before the 37th edition begins (17th–26th March 2023), the Fribourg International Film Festival, presents its New Territory section, which every year celebrates little-known filmmaking cultures. With the war in Ukraine dominating headlines over the last 12 months, FIFF turns its spotlight on the Republic of Moldova, a landlocked country bordered by Ukraine and Romania. With three feature films (including Carbon, the Moldovan entry in the 2023 Oscars) and four documentaries, as well as two programmes of recently released short films, the line-up is an immersive tour of the irony- and poetry-imbued cinema created by the latest generation of talented Moldovan filmmakers. The full programme of the 37th FIFF will be unveiled on 1st March 2023..
After dedicating its New Territory section to Angola in 2022, FIFF turns its attention to the Republic of Moldova, offering a sweeping view of Moldovan cinema. This world first came about from a chance meeting with producer Ion Gnatiuc, which piqued the interest of FIFF Artistic Director Thierry Jobin: "The Republic of Moldova, which has fewer than 3 million inhabitants, has clearly realised that there is nothing to be gained by imitating foreign filmmaking. The country, which shares a border with Ukraine and has grown accustomed to the presence of Russian troops in Transnistria, confirms the rule that the more local a film is, the more universal its message becomes. And what brilliant films they make! Sometimes bucolic, often metaphorical, they deploy subtle humour to transcend the absurdities of political quagmire.” Gnatiuc, who agreed to curate this year's New Territory section, and a delegation of other Moldovan filmmakers will take part in a FIFForum roundtable on the (re-)emergence of Moldovan cinema.
The Republic of Moldova has undergone several major geopolitical upheavals that have also had a profound impact on its film industry. Today, there is a war raging on its doorstep and the country finds itself contending with a massive influx of Ukrainian refugees and rolling power cuts. Several decades before, there was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent decision of the Transnistria region to break away from the rest of Moldova. Yet, it was under Soviet rule that Moldovan cinema experienced its first renaissance. Starting in the 1960s, it enjoyed about a decade and a half of successful and highly productive years that included the creation of several major studios. USSR disintegration, however, led to a period of stagnation for the Moldovan film industry, and it all but disappeared after the country declared independence in 1991 and funding dried up. But a talented young generation of filmmakers is emerging and making impressive inroads in the industry, as evidenced by the many brilliant Moldovan films that have been made in the last decade.
2023 is proving to be a great year for Moldovan cinema, which has entered the race for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film with Ion Borș’ Carbon as national candidate – a film which will also be screened at FIFF. There is also the impressive Pigeon's Milk, the first film shot in the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria that depicts a world where milk tankers are filled with red wine to alleviate the soldiers’ boredom. The Soviet Garden is an extraordinary documentary that investigates the secret plan by the Khrushchev regime between 1958 and 1964 to turn what is now the Republic of Moldova into a huge experimental garden to study the impact of atomic energy on local agriculture. Moldovan cinema is also not short of combative female protagonists. One of the most recent examples is the powerful and poetic Anişoara by Ana Felicia Scutelnicu, whose earlier film was shown at FIFF 2017. One of the two short film programmes is also suitable for young audiences (12+).
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New Territory: Republic of Moldova
Feature films (fiction)
Anişoara, Ana Felicia Scutelnicu, 2016
Pigeon’s Milk, Eugen Marian, 2021
Carbon, Ion Borș, 2022
Feature films (documentaires)
The Soviet Garden, Dragos Turea, 2019
Goodbye, Olegovici!, Eugeniu Popovici, 2020
Please Hold the Line, Pavel Cuzuioc, 2020
Maluri, Lucia Tăut, 2021
Programme 1: Moldovan Short Films
Ana, Natalia Shaufert, 2013
Lazarus Syndrome, Eugen Damaschin, 2018
My Uncle Tudor, Olga Lucovnicova, 2020
Salix Caprea, Valeriu Andriutã
Programme 2 : Moldovan Short Films (12+)
Ana, Natalia Shaufert, 2013
Sigh, Vlad Bolgarin, 2019
Paparuda, Lucia Lupu, 2016
Aripi, Dmitri Voloshin, 2019
Ce zici?, Ioana Vatamanu-Margineanu, 2021
Colectia de arome, Igor Cobileanski, 2013
Daydream, Igor Cobileanski, 2019
FIFForum round table: meeting with Ion Gnatiuc and the delegation of Moldovan filmmakers (free entry)