The New Romanian Cinema strikes back: Francesca to open Orizzonti section at Venice FF

By Iulia Blaga

    Before producing Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr Lăzărescu (2005), Bobby Păunescu didn't have any connection with the cinema business.


    Except for a short film he made after graduating from an intensive course at School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles (2007), this is his first feature film. However, Francesca, which he wrote, directed and produced together with Cristi Puiu and Mandragora Movies (http://www.mandragora.ro/) , has been chosen to open the "Orizzonti" section at Venice Film Festival, on September 3.

    The origin of the movie is a dramatic news item: on October 30, 2007, close to Tor di Quinto railway station in Rome, 47-year-old woman, Giovanna Reggiani, was raped and killed by Nicolae Romulus Mailat, a 24-year-old Romanian with criminal record in his country going back to age 14, when he was sent to a correctional institution.

    {mosimage} Bobby Păunescu recalls, "This horrible crime was followed by an unprecedented anarchy of reactions in both countries: in Italy, where they launched an understandable and generalized hunting of the plague-spreader; and in Romania, where the collective necessity of keeping the conscience clean was solved by associating the crime to the gypsy race of Mailat, which confirmed the xenophobic prejudice and the fake ideology from which an important part of the Romanian population suffers. Romanians are good, Gypsies are bad. The umpteenth cliché. I grew up in Milan and I consider Italy my second country, but in that moment my world turned upside-down, and I felt the urge for a more thorough reflection upon the relationship between Romanians and Italians: a taboo in the context of the spread of anti-Romanian tendencies."

    The result is a film that, some say, has the energy of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and the most erotic scene in the Romanian cinema history. Above all, Francesca is an honest and remarkable approach to a very difficult topic for both countries.

    Păunescu named the main character Francesca after the saint of immigrants, Francesca Saverio Cabrini. She was an Italian naturalized as an American citizen in 1909. Coincidentally, she is feted on December 22 - the same date (in 1989) when Romanians became free to emigrate after decades of dictatorship.

    Francesca is played by Monica Bârlădeanu (The Death of Mr Lăzărescu). The majority of the cast includes actors who appeared in The Death of Mr Lăzărescu: Doru Boguţă, Luminiţa Gheorghiu, Teo Corban (also seen in 12:08 East of Bucharest), Doru Ana, and Dana Dogaru, and introducing Mihai Dorobantu as Remulus. Andrei Butică is the director of photography, and Anca Puiu the executive producer.

    "I didn't care of aestethics while shooting, or whether my film was a drama or a comedy, I just cared about the story," Păunescu said in complete modesty, but his 100% Romanian production is expected to be one of the surprises of Venice Film Festival in 2009. The film has already been bought by Fandango and will be distributed in Italy in October. Discussions with other distributors were underway before its official launching in Venice.


    {mosimage} Contact Information in Venice:

    Publicist in Italy: Giulia Martinez

    Cell. +39 335 7189949

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    International Press: Brigitta Portier, ALIBI COMMUNICATIONS

    {mosimage} Office in Venice: Unifrance - near swimmingpool at Excelsior Italian

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