Romanian Cinema: A Look at Romania\’s Film History

Romania has been producing quality films for more than a century now, but it is only in the past few decades that this country’s cinema has started to gain recognition in the international scene.

Romania’s film industry was heavily influenced by its political and social context, which saw the country moving from monarchy to communism and then to democracy. As a result, Romanian cinema has been able to reflect the transformations and contradictions of the society it emerged from, putting its own stamp on the global cinema landscape.

Let’s take a closer look at Romania’s film history and discover what makes this country’s cinema so unique.

Beginnings of Romanian cinema

Romania’s first cinematic experiences date back to the turn of the last century when the Lumière Brothers’ cinématographe device landed in the country. It didn’t take long for local filmmakers to start producing their own films, and by 1912, Romania had its first movie studio, called Casa Film.

The pre-World War II period saw a diverse array of genres and themes being explored, from melodramas to comedies and newsreels. However, it wasn’t until the communist era that Romanian cinema really started to flourish, thanks to strict state control and funding.

The golden age of Romanian cinema

The communist regime marked a turning point in Romanian cinema’s history, as the state played a dominant role in film production and distribution. This allowed for a new generation of filmmakers to emerge, exploring themes that had previously been considered taboo or ignored.

Filmmakers such as Lucian Pintilie, Mircea Daneliuc, and Liviu Ciulei emerged during this period, garnering critical acclaim both at home and abroad. The films produced during this time explored complex socio-political issues and marked a new era for Romanian cinema as a challenge to the oppressive environment of the communist regime and provided an outlet for individual expression.

The fall of the communist regime in 1989 saw a new wave of Romanian cinema slowly emerge, one that would eventually gain more international recognition than ever before.

New wave Romanian cinema

Arguably the movement that put Romanian cinema on the map of the global film industry was the so-called ‘New Wave.’ Emerging in 2005, with Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Romanian cinema shifted focus from the grand narratives of the past to more realistic, everyday stories, punctuated with dark humor.

This new wave of Romanian cinema comprises filmmakers such as Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest), and Calin Peter Netzer (Child’s Pose), among others. This new breed of filmmakers brought a personal touch to their films, often deploying dark comedy alongside poignant social critiques, and unearthing the complexities of everyday life.

What makes Romanian cinema unique?

Romania’s cinema is praised for its honesty, realism, and nuanced storytelling. Themes like social inequality, corruption, and poverty, which are often overlooked or handled with a light hand in other countries’ films, serve as major themes in Romanian films. The new wave of Romanian cinema, in particular, excels in shedding light on the everyday struggle for survival and the injustice of the judicial system.


Q: Who is the most famous Romanian filmmaker?
A: Cristian Mungiu is probably Romania’s best-known director worldwide, thanks to his Palme d’Or-winning film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Q: What are some must-see Romanian movies?
A: Other than 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, some of the most acclaimed Romanian films are The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Aurora, Police, Adjective, and Child’s Pose.

Q: Is Romanian cinema exclusively focused on social/political issues?
A: While socio-political themes are prevalent in Romanian cinema, the country’s filmmakers have diverged into different genres and themes, from horror (Liviu Săndulescu’s Cannibal Holocaust-inspired Forest of the Hanged) to comedy (Bogdan Dumitrescu’s A Month in Thailand) and historical epics (Titus Muntean’s The Way I Spent the End of the World).

Q: How has Romania’s cinema industry been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
A: As with many other countries, the pandemic has led to the closure of cinemas and halted production on numerous film projects. However, Romanian filmmakers have adapted and found new ways of reaching their audience, such as drive-in screenings and partnerships with streaming platforms.

In conclusion, Romania’s cinema has come a long way since its inception, and in recent years, it has managed to captivate the world with its unique and realistic storytelling. Whether you’re interested in social issues, comedy, or even horror, Romania’s cinema industry certainly has something to offer any moviegoer looking for something new and refreshing.