Internationally-acclaimed Romanian film director about women’s privilege of giving life and refusal to define themselves by it

Photo: Foto: Clemens Bilan / Getty Images via Facebook

The competition at Cannes International Film Festival opened on Thursday with Romanian movie Sieranevada, directed by internationally-acclaimed Romanian director Cristi Puiu. The start of the projection was accompanied by Romanian folk music interpreted by regretted singer Liviu Vasilică.

The Romanian director came to the festival with the cast and part of his family, who were involved in the making of the film: wife Anca, the film producer, and youngest daughter, six-year old Zoe, who has a part in the movie (photo above, between Romanian actors Mimi Brănescu and Dana Dogaru).

Sieranevada enjoyed important success. Romanian film critic Eugenia Vodă reports that, even though the projection was held late in the night and took almost three hours, it nailed the public to their seats, which is rare with this kind of crowd.

At the very same time, on Romanian social media channels, cool mothers – the ones who usually manage to fulfil both family calling and professional achievement (and are proud of it) – were in a vexed frenzy over some statements made by Cristi Puiu in a recent interview. Previously, the Romanian director had said his three daughters Smaranda, Ileana and Zoe would not follow into his professional footsteps. Related to this, journalist Răzvan Chiruță from the cultural platform Scena9 asked Puiu the following question: “Why there are no successful women-directors in Romania?”

Puiu, seen by some international critics as one of the most radical director of the moment, made a courageous, moving and equally (and paradoxically) radical. He stated that women have the highest calling, maternity, which usually overrides other preoccupations – intellectual, artistic or professional. The Romanian director also noted that lately women have started to refuse maternity as their ultimate calling, trying to add to their life other occupations that, in his opinion, don’t raise to the same level of importance as maternity and sometimes even conflict with it:

The most important thing man can do on Earth is give life. There is no other thing even remotely as important, great and unique as this. And the woman does it. I think [that is why] women don’t rush to do anything else once they have had children. It is such a joy.  Being a mother is huge. Unfortunately, things have been turned upside-down lately and women get offended if they are reduced to the status of mothers. But whoever manages to overcome the current preconceptions and fully enjoy motherhood certainly won’t feel like painting anymore [for example]. There are many women with a successful career who don’t have children or are pitiful mothers. People have always tried to invent new things and novelty is probably the most serious temptation I have seen. Novelty-seeking at any price is pushing the limits in private life, swiping everything away. Suddenly, we want everything to be new. I don’t understand, I don’t know how it is better or worse. Most probably I’m the bigot…

About Sieranevada movie

Photo: © T. Leibreich / FDC

At the press conference, Puiu declared he was inspired by his father’s death and wake feast. Asked why the entire action of the movie takes place in an apartment from a communist block of flats, Cristi Puiu answered, as quoted by OK! magazine:

This space is a small-scale reflection of the world, like in a mirror. The most important thing is meeting the Other One. All these have a purpose: creating a honeycomb-like world without communication, where each individual is sealed in one’s cell without knowing there is another one out there. And starting to search for the other can be the alternative that changes everything.

The critics’ opinion

Eugenia Vodă:

Even those who did not like the movie admitted that “you don’t get bored” The media (especially the English-speaking one) was very favourable and different ratings place it on the first or second place in the critics’ preferences. (…) Unlike 20th century French writer André Gide, who famously said: “Families, I hate you!“, Cristi Puiu might say: “Families, you fascinate me!“

The Telegraph:

Sieranevada, a comedy that looks like a drama, sounds like a drama, and remains dead serious, and politically searching, through three full hours of actually twisting your leg. …it’s a comedy, in fact, containing barely one moment of comic exaggeration. As such, it earns respect and a cumulative awe in its intently amused vision of reality: it’s a commanding and intellectually gratifying piece of work.


Puiu is confirming himself as one of the most truly distinctive (and philosophically fascinating) voices of 21st-century filmmaking; in his singularly thoughtful approach to cinematic realism, he is at once rigorous and quietly radical.

VIDEO: Scenes from Sieranevada

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