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Review

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Why Me?: A rare Romanian political thriller

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- BERLIN 2015: Tudor Giurgiu’s latest drama film explores the dark context of a real-life legal case

Review

With dozens of features produced every year, Romanian cinema is still far from being a highly developed film industry, and perhaps the best proof of this is the lack of genre films. After his comedy Of Snails and Men [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
film profile
]
, Tudor Giurgiu takes another step in the right direction with his eagerly awaited Why Me? [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Tudor Giurgiu
film profile
]
, a (more political than legal) thriller inspired by the case of Cristian Panait, a Romanian prosecutor who died more than a decade ago, in mysterious circumstances, when he was only 29. The movie is screening in Panorama Special at this year's Berlinale.

In Why Me? the prosecutor’s name is changed to Cristian Panduru, which may mean that the director has chosen to offer his own perspective about the unclear conclusion to Panait’s life. Panduru (Emilian Oprea) is young, handsome and ambitious, and the audience will sense his own confidence in his bright future from the very first few minutes of the film. Although hard-working and on friendly terms with his boss, chief prosecutor Codrea (Mihai Constantin), Panduru is surprised to be assigned to the case of an older colleague, Bogdan Leca (Alin Florea), who has been accused of corruption.

As Leca is one of the few prosecutors who have ever pressed charges against powerful businessmen, Panduru feels uncertain about the case and starts the investigation with a fresh point of view. He will soon come to understand that shady interests and plans were weaved around Leca.

The film benefits from a convincing performance by Oprea, an actor who has been unfamiliar to Romanian cinemagoers until now. Hailed as the next Dragoş Bucur, he has already had a juicy part in Ana Lungu’s Self-Portrait of a Dutiful Daughter [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(screened at Rotterdam 2015 – read the review) and will be seen later this year in Marian Crişan’s Orizont [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Marian Crisan
film profile
]
 (see the news), a social drama about an illegal logging mafia. At first sporting a determined, steely gaze, Oprea soon alters his style of acting, as Panduru stumbles into a web of corruption and paranoia.

Aided by production designer Cristian Niculescu, who also recreated communist Romania in Andrei Gruzsniczki’s Quod Erat Demonstradum [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Andrei Gruzsniczki
interview: Andrei Gruzsniczki
festival scope
film profile
]
, and by DoP Marius Panduru (who also shot Aferim! [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
]
, the black-and-white Romanian movie set in the 19th century, which is screening in the Berlinale’s competition), Giurgiu brings flesh and blood to an “interesting” (as in the famous Chinese curse) period in the country’s history.

Although too conventional and a little on the long side, Why Me? will undoubtedly have an impact in Romania (in spite of the widely known ending) and in former communist countries that are still struggling with widespread corruption. For Romanian audiences, the film will also stress how the country has changed since Cristian Panait’s death, and Tudor Giurgiu employs a “then and now” comparison with useful title cards before the end credits: dozens of magnates and even a former prime minister are among the “victims” of the Romanian legal system.

The movie was produced by Libra Film together with Hai-Hui Entertainment (Romania), Chouchkov Brothers (Bulgaria) and Cor Leonis Films (Hungary). It is represented by Heretic Outreach (see the news).

photogallery

international title: Why Me?
original title: De ce eu?
country: Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary
sales agent: Heretic Outreach
year: 2015
directed by: Tudor Giurgiu
screenplay: Tudor Giurgiu, Loredana Novak
cast: Emilian Oprea, Mihai Constantin, Andreea Vasile, Dan Condurache, Liviu Pintileasa

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2015Panorama
Beaune International Thriller Film Festival 2015 
Transilvania International Film Festival 2015 
Golden Rose Film Festival 2015 
Vienna International Film Festival 2015 
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