The 22nd edition of the Transilvania International Film Festival kicked off Friday night in the city of Cluj-Napoca with the international premiere of Northern Comfort, a comedy directed by Icelandic filmmaker Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, and with a tribute to the film’s star, Timothy Spall.

The famed British character actor, known for his roles in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy and Mr. Turner, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech and the Harry Potter films, received this year’s lifetime achievement award at the festival’s opening gala.

The Icelandic-UK-German co-production Northern Comfort is part of the massive Nordic Focus at the festival this year, with more than 40 films from Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, as well as live music performances and cine-concerts. Some of the Nordic highlights include Ruben Östlund’s 2022 Palm d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness, Lars von Trier’s fantasy horror series The Kingdom Exodus, the third and final season of the iconic Danish TV series, and Juho Kuosmanen’s 2021 Cannes Grand Prix winner, Finnish drama Compartment No. 6.

“Although the burning social themes, like class differences, inter-ethnic conflicts, migration, drug use, and prostitution are inevitable, the filmmakers achieve the increasingly rare performance in today’s cinema of not abusing them, creating, with an admirable economy of means, subversive stories of great impact and a sophisticated narration, whose real stakes lie elsewhere”, says Transilvania International Film Festival artistic director Mihai Chirilov about the official competition line-up. Among the twelve films by first and second-time directors is also the first entry from the Republic of Moldova: Carbon by Ion Bors, a clever farce about the troubled years of the Transnistrian conflict in the early 1990s, which premiered last year at San Sebastian. Some other titles competing for the Transylvania Trophy are Croatian surreal drama The Uncle by David Kapac and Andrija Mardesic, which shows the influence of Michael Haneke’s and Yorgos Lanthimos; Brazilian comedy Charcoal by Carolina Markowitz, which premiered at the Toronto film festival last year; the Argentinian thriller The Barbarians by Andrew Sala; Canadian drama Noémie says yes by Geneviève Albert and Czech explosive drama Banger by Adam Sedlák, which was shot entirely with an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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The festival’s new documentary sidebar What’s Up, Doc?, introduced last year, will screen ten documentaries out of which nine are European productions, and one a U.S. entry: Crows are White about a Muslim who goes on a spiritual journey to a Buddhist monastery.

“Regardless of the path they take, which can sometimes be mystifying, breaking the rules of the genre, the ten documentaries get to the truth of the matter each in its own way, whether it’s about antiheroes with larger-than-life ambitions, personal quests that never really end, or real portraits of niche communities constructed with the weapons of experimental film or fiction”, notes Mihai Chirilov.

The Transilvania fest will also pay a special tribute to the late masters of cinema Sidney Lumet and Jean-Luc Godard. Lumet, one of the most prolific of American filmmakers, worked with silver screen icons including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Katharine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, will receive a six-film retrospective tribute including such American classics as 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network, and Dog Day Afternoon. French New Wave legend Godar will be honored with an eight-film tribute, including such Godard classics as Breathless, Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou.

Besides Timothy Spall, organizers are also honoring the acclaimed Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, and the controversial American director and screenwriter Oliver Stone, with lifetime achievement awards. The festival wills screen Stone’s Natural Born Killers, based on a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, and Born on the Fourth of July , starring Tom Cruise, in Stone’s honor. The director will also present his latest film, the pro-nuclear-power documentary Nuclear Now, which premiered in Venice last year.

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The full Transilvania International Film Festival competition and documentary line-ups are below.

Official Competition

Banger (Czech Republic)
Directed by Adam Sedlák

Carbon (Republic of Moldova, Romania)
Directed by Ion Borș

Charcoal (Brazil)
Directed by Carolina Markowicz

Daughter of Rage (Nicaragua)
Directed by Laura Baumeister

Family Time (Finland)
Directed by Tia Kuovo

Like a Fish on the Moon (Iran)
Directed by Dornaz Hajiha

Noémie dit oui (Canada)
Directed by Geneviève Albert

Stillness in the Storm (Spain)
Directed by Alberto Gastesi

The Barbarians (Argentina)
Directed by Andrew Sala

The Cake Dinasty (Denmark)
Directed by Christian Lollike

The Uncle (Croatia, Serbia)
Directed by David Kapac, Andrija Mardesic

Upon Entry (Spain)
Directed by Alejandro Rojas, Juan Sebastián Vasquez

What’s Up Doc? Competition

100 Seasons (Sweden)
Directed by Giovanni Bucchieri

Anhell69 (Colombia, Romania, France, Germany)
Directed by Theo Montoya

Crows Are White(US)
Directed by Ahsen Nadeem

Dogwatch (Greece, France)
Directed by Gregoris Rentis

Knit’s Island (France)
Directed by Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’Helgouac’h

Like An Island(Switzerland)
Directed by Tizian Büchi

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood(Estonia, France, Iceland)
Directed by Anna Hints 

The Cathedral (Slovakia)
Directed by Denis Dobrovoda

The Land You Belong(Italy, Belgium, Romania)
Directed by Elena Rebeca Carini

The Outliers(France)
Directed by Raphaël Mathié

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