Tales From the Golden Age - from the creators of 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS
The final 15 years of the Ceausescu regime were the worst in Romania's history. Nonetheless, the propaganda machine of that time referred without fail to that period as “the golden age”...
Tales from the Golden Age adapts for screen the most popular urban myths of the period. Comic, bizarre, surprising myths abounded, myths that drew on the often surreal events of everyday life under the communist regime.
Humor is what kept Romanians alive, and TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE aims to re-capture that mood, portraying the survival of a nation having to face every day the twisted logic of a dictatorship.
On the occasion of Ceausescu's working visits, countryside mayors ended up hanging fruit in trees to make sure their villages would be noticed, obeying even the strangest orders from the ferocious Party activists. Communist Party secret regulations stated that in official pictures President Ceausescu couldn't take his hat off in front of the representatives of the rotten capitalistic world, President d'Estaing included. A professional driver decides to open his sealed truck for the first time in his career and discovers the connection between eggs, Easter and marital love. A policeman gets a live pig as gift before Christmas and decides that gas poisoning would be the best way to kill the animal silently amongst his hungry neighbors. In the 80s Romania, Bughi and Crina play Bonnie and Clyde, robbing people of bottled air.
TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE combines several true stories to portray an era during which food was more important than money, freedom more important than love and survival more important than principles.
TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE is made of episodes:
THE LEGEND OF THE OFFICIAL VISIT
THE LEGEND OF THE PARTY PHOTOGRAPHER
THE LEGEND OF THE ZEALOUS ACTIVIST
THE LEGEND OF THE CHICKEN DRIVER
THE LEGEND OF THE GREEDY POLICEMAN
THE LEGEND OF THE AIR SELLERS
THE LEGEND OF THE OFFICIAL VISIT
Context: Official Party visits were spectacular events. Often, the official motorcade would cross numerous villages and towns to reach its final destination. In each of these towns, officials would mobilize the inhabitants to demonstrate wild enthusiasm. The most bizarre Party orders would be obeyed blindly and absolutely. Story: In the small village of Vizuresti, the Mayor and his assistant are preparing for an official Party visit.
The road is being paved, trees are painted, cows are scrubbed and paraded. Every villager is set to work: the visit must be a success. Contradictory updates arrive constantly from Party headquarters. It is announced that the day before the visit, there will be a general rehearsal in all the villages on the motorcade's route. Since Vizuresti is last in line, it is assumed that the Party inspectors would stop for dinner, and the Mayor and his team set about making preparations. The officials duly arrive, instantly ordering the removal of a merry-go-round at the entrance of the village. Dinner is served and, after a long day, the booze flows freely. The Mayor calls an orchestra for the entertainment of the delegation and the official dinner turns into a joyful feast – interrupted only by a late night call from Party HQ cancelling the impending visit. With the pressure off, the officials decide to celebrate their freedom with a ride on the merry-go-round… in the middle of the night. Perhaps blindly
following Party directives is not the best idea after all.
The Legend of the Party Photographer
Context: The Party‟s daily paper, “Scinteia”, was Romania‟s most censored publication. All articles and pictures had to follow strict Party directives if they were to be approved and published in the paper.
Story: President Giscard d‟Estaing‟s visit to meet Ceausescu is a huge event. Many
“Scinteia” journalists cover the occasion, but pictures are the most important issue since the articles are pre-written anyway.
Everything goes well until somebody from the censor‟s office discovers that in every photograph, Giscard d‟Estaing was wearing his hat while Ceausescu was holding his. Some bright spark of a Party official considers that the working classes could interpret this as the communists showing deference before Capitalism. This simply isn‟t possible - so, with the deadline looming, the debate begins. Should they remove the French premier‟s hat or airbrush one on to Ceausescu? What happens leads to the first time in history that “Scinteia” isn‟t printed in time to reach its working class readership the following day.
The legend of the Zealous Activist
Context: In the race with the capitalist world, the communists wanted to pretend there are no illiterates in the new society. People were given school diplomas without having to frequent the schools too often. Still, some activists wanted to have everything done by the book.
Story: A zealous young activist promises in front of his superiors to eradicate illiteracy in a remote village. He goes there and orders all villagers, no matter their age, to come to school to learn to read and write. People are reluctant as they consider it is shameful for aged people to sit next to children in school. The shepherd of the village refuses to show up but sends his grand-son. Learning to read and write, the child starts to identify potential dangers everywhere around. World becomes a much more full of perils place for them than when they were illiterate and the first victims of their knowledge appear in the rows of the party activists.
The Legend of the Chicken Driver
Context: Love and food were connected in subtle ways in that era when even if you had cash, there was no food to buy. The idols of the day were vendors in state markets, waiters, drivers of food trucks and others like them.
Story: Grigore drives a truck for a poultry farm. For years, his job has been to transport a truck full of hens for export from northern Romania to the southern port of Constanta. Strict regulations forbid him to stop on the way although the journey is a very long one. Grigore never questions this prohibition until the day his wheels are stolen and he has to spend the night at an inn.
Next morning, when he opens his sealed truck for the first time in his driving career, he discovers he has become a much more interesting man for the beautiful blonde hotel manager than he had been the night before.
The Legend of the Greedy Policeman
Context By the end of the Communist era, famine was overtaking Romania. Food was more valuable than money and meat more precious then gold.
The story: Danut is the son of a policeman, living in a small apartment in a block of flats in a small town.
The local tradition is to eat pork for Christmas but stores are empty. Therefore, when a distant relative from the country decides to bring pork for the celebration, everyone is more than happy. The only problem is that he brings the pig alive, to show that the meat is fresh. How do you slaughter a pig in the middle of the night without making any noise and thus alerting your hungry neighbors, not to mention the police? Danut comes up with a brilliant solution: gassing the hapless beast using the kitchen stove.
The Legend of the Air Sellers
Context: There was no private initiative during the Communist times. Everything belonged to the State and everybody worked for the State. People wanting to buy a car usually had to eat only yoghurt and bread for two or three years to pay the deposit.
The story: 18-year-old Crina is disappointed that her parents won‟t let her go to spring camp with her school friends as they are saving to buy a local-made Dacia car. Then Bughi, a handsome student, rings at her door and asks for a sample of water. Having noticed people‟s respect for - and fear of - the authorities, he has devised an
ingenious moneymaking scam. He would pretend to be from the Ministry of Environment checking the quality of the water inside people‟s apartments and ask permission to take a sample of water in a bottle.
By selling these bottles, he is able to earn a fair amount of money. Bughi soon convinces Crina to join him.
For her, the money isn‟t important. Together, they are Bonnie and Clyde robbing banks.
"Tales from the Golden Age"
Note of writer and producer Cristian Mungiu:
About the concept
"Tales from the Golden Age" aims to provide an unconventional subjective history of the late Communist times in Romania, told through its urban myths from the perspective of ordinary people. Romanians consider urban legends to be true stories that were passed from mouth to mouth. They were the main topic of gossip and debate in the long cues for food.
The project re-creates in a nostalgic and evocative way the times of our youth during the eighties, through music, language, objects and stereotypes of that age.
The film offers an overview of the survival of a nation having to face every day the particular logic of a dictatorship – revealing the comic aspects of a dictatorship that was taking itself too seriously.
TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE is composed of several stories connected by the mood, narrative pattern and the details of the historical period: the only car you can see on the streets is DACIA, the local version of Renault 12; the daily TV program is just two hours long; everybody steals from the State; food is more important than money; you have to obey party orders no matter how illogical. The people wear a grim expression yet still, deep inside, they are alive, they aim to love and to be loved.
A film with variable geometry, TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE will screen different numbers of episodes every time: in Cannes five episodes will be shown at the first two screenings. The third screening in Cannes will include a different episode than the first two: THE LEGEND OF THE ZEALOUS ACTIVIST
In Romania, four episodes will be screened as TALES OF AUTHORITY and two episodes as TALES OF LOVE.
After a screening with 4 MONTH, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, a spectator told me he has the feeling we are more and more making films for the festivals and less and less for the audience and asked me if we can do anything to change this. I said yes. I decided to open up the rest of the project TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE to different Romanian directors, enlisting filmmakers old enough to remember the period. I chose the stories, wrote the screenplays, got involved in the casting and editing, ensuring that finally there is just one film, but each director was free to use his own cinematic language.
Waiting in line during communist times, you never knew what you were going to get. We transferred the principle to the film: different screenings of Tales from the Golden Age will feature a different combination of episodes. So if you talk to somebody who has seen a different episode than you, think of what we experienced staying in line.
TALES FOR THE GOLDEN AGE has for me the feeling of the Italian films of the sixties or seventies, popular, direct and funny, revisiting cinema as a popular art.
Born in Iasi, Romania in 1968.
Degree in English and American Literature, University of Iasi, 1993. Degree in Film, University of Film and Theatre, Bucharest, 1998. Before becoming a filmmaker, he worked as a journalist for print, radio and television.
2006 / 2007
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS - Writer / Director / Producer.
Cannes Festival 2007- PALME D‟OR
LOST AND FOUND – Co-Writer / Co–director.
Berlin Film Festival
OCCIDENT - Writer / Director
Quinzaine des Realisateurs
IOANA MARIA URICARU
Born in Romania in 1971.
Degrees in Biology and in Film and Television Directing. Before directing films, she worked as editor, journalist and and teacher.
Malpensa –Director, short, script by Cristian Mungiu, in pre-production, Mobrafilms
The Witness – Writer and director, short, in pre-production. Tales From the Golden Age –Director
; Self Comes to Mind, May 2009, video performance. Text by Antonio
Damasio, music composed by Bruce Adolphe and performed live by Yo Yo
; National Treasure 2007, co-director with Wang Ying, documentary,
Communication University of China
; The Sun and The Moon 2007, Writer and director, short
; Outskirts 2007, feature, co-written with Cristian Mungiu, in pre-production.
; Happiness 2007, writer, feature, in development,
Director / scriptwriter
Born in 1967 in Timisoara, Romania.
Degree in film, University of Film and Theatre, Bucharest, Romania, 1998
Degree in South-East European History, Berlin, 1993 Member of two important Romanian jazz and blues groups: Nightlosers and Harry
Tavitian„s Orient Express
“Nadia” – director documentary about the gymnast Nadia Comaneci for the TV-
series “Great Romanians” on Romanian National TV
coordinator of the Roma antidiscrimination project “Chiar diferiti-acelasi sange” direction of TV and radio campaign
Humanitarian Aid, 17 min, 35mm, colour, director
1998 Dincolo/On the Other Side, 18 min, super16 mm, colour, director 1997 The International Phonecall, 8 min, 35 mm, b/w, director 2000 – 2009 director/producer for Public German Television ARD in Romania
1999-2009 director music videos, commercials
Born in Romania in 1976.
Degree in Film, University of Film and Theatre, Bucharest, 1998
Dark Assylum– short, editor
Bus - short, director and script writer 1997
Cristi and Vera – short, director and script writer TV Commercials
Born in Romania in 1973.
Degree in Spanish/ English and Master in British Cultural Studies. Literary debut in 2002. Since then he has published texts in several important literary
papers and a novel which won the prize for debut awarded by the Writers‟ Association of Bucharest in 2002.
Before becoming a filmmaker, he worked as translator, and production and director
The portrait of the fighter in his youth in production- Director and script writer Tales from the Golden Age - Director
Smiling yellow face - short-film, Director
Water - short-film, Director and writer
Drezina, TV drama documentary - Director and writer
A lineman’s cabin, script by Cristian Mungiu, short, Director
The Appartment, short - Writer and director.