What a Wonderful World: a tale of two countries
by Stefan Dobroiu
- The Moldovan drama received the FIPRESCI Award at Warsaw
After Igor Cobileanski’s The Unsaved [+see also:
film profile] made a splash at Karlovy Vary last year – and is now representing Moldova at the Oscars – it is time for a new, promising and captivating voice from Romania’s sister country: actor and director Anatol Durbală screened his first feature, What a Wonderful World [+see also:
film profile], at the Warsaw Film Festival (10-19 October), winning the FIPRESCI Award for a Debut Film.
Based on real events, What a Wonderful World centres on Petru (Igor Babiac, definitely the country's go-to actor of his generation), a 22-year-old who left Moldova to study in Boston, Massachusetts, and is back in Chişinău for the holidays. The screenplay, written by Durbală, lets its laid-back protagonist enjoy the little pleasures of being back in his hometown: a conversation with the taxi driver, a phone call to his girlfriend in the States, politely declining to have lunch with a neighbour. But Petru does not know that Moldova is in turmoil: suspecting botched elections that would give the Communist Party a high number of seats in the Parliament, thousands of Moldovans take to the streets in protest. Petru will soon get involved in the events, which turn more and more brutal as the police become more determined to arrest, punish and abuse the protesters.
Produced on a very low budget over two years, What a Wonderful World has the flaws inherent in both a very difficult production and an inexperienced scriptwriter, but the audience’s attention is retained by impressive performances and the brutal clash between two mentalities. A drab room in a police station is the scene for an extraordinary 17-minute scene in which Petru is confronted by a major (the always excellent Igor Caras-Romanov). This is not an interrogation, but rather a clash of national proportions, in which the future collides with the past, and the latter is prepared to do anything in order to keep its grip on the nation’s destiny.
Actually, What a Wonderful World is a tale of two countries, and Petru and the major are symbols of each of these. The former wants to know why he was dragged into the police station in the middle of night and why he was beaten; the latter brags about his “red” diploma, his patriotism and his respect for his elders. It is a battle between the common sense of a person who knows his voice will get stronger and the hysteria of a man who knows his power is diminishing with every passing day.
At first disturbingly familiar, the film’s title is smartly chosen and perfectly appropriate. Introducing Louis Armstrong’s famous tune near the movie’s climax as a phone ringtone, Durbală not only ironically calls into question his country’s political situation, but also challenges its future. It is easy to remember the song’s lyrics, “I hear babies crying, I watch them grow/They’ll learn much more, than I'll ever know,” and see them projected over the next generation. Winning or losing a battle may seem final in Durbală’s film, but even the fact that What a Wonderful World was made without any help from the state bodes well for Moldova’s future.
Produced independently by Youbesc Film, with Sergiu Cumatrenco Jr as producer, What a Wonderful World is Moldova’s only feature of 2014. Although there are some Romanian-Moldovan co-productions in development now, Durbală’s film should become the country’s Oscar candidate for 2016. The movie was released domestically in April and was watched by approximately 3,500 Moldovans. Youbesc Film is in negotiations for a Romanian distribution.