The short film “The Christmas Gift”, directed by Bogdan Muresanu, got the Grand Prize at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.
The short film “The Christmas Gift”, directed by Bogdan Muresanu, got the Grand Prize at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Since hitting the festival trail, Muresanu's film received numerous international prizes, among them the Romanian Film Days Award, at the Transylvania International Film Festival, the Grand Prize of the short film section of the Cottbus Film Festival, and an honorable mention at the Montpellier Festival.
The plot is set in the evening of December 20, 1989. It starts with a letter to Santa Claus from a boy telling him what his parents want for the holidays. The boy's father realizes, to his horror that the wish in the letter that the boy put in the mail is to see Ceausescu dead. We talked to Bogdan Muresanu about the film, about his hopes tied to a revival of civil society, and the duty to talk about historic moments he has witnessed. Especially since one other short film of his, “Half Shaved”, tells a story set in the early 1990s, right after the regime change, when a barber realizes that one of his customers was his torturer when he was a political prisoner.
Bogdan Muresanu: “I lived through troubled times. Speaking for myself, I lived through two revolutions. The 1989 revolution and the digital revolution. It seemed very strange to me that everything was moving on-line. These and other events defined my biography, for instance, the transition period of the early '90s, when there were almost no rules, and everything was owned by the people who used to rule the country, what I call the formers. Those were bewildering times for me, it was hard to grasp what was going on. It seemed to me that the order of things was swept up in the confusion, and order set in much later also under pressure from Western institutions. Our institutions, back then, had been emptied of any content, which still holds. For instance, this award that I recently got in Clermont-Ferrand is very important, because it is an endorsement by a serious western institution. I also got the Romanian Film Days Award for short film at the Transylvania International Film Festival, which is very important, but it is much more important to have endorsement from the West. We no longer hold values, they were destroyed during the communist period. Therefore a long time has to pass to re-establish values and fill with meaning the institutions meant to govern.”
Bogdan Muresanu's intention was to make the film “The Christmas Gift” as a dark comedy:
“I went to great lengths to see how I can do that, how I could, given the features of the story, turn it into a dark comedy. It seems I made it. I took this movie to a lot of places in the world, and I saw that all the viewers, no matter what their cultural differences were, reacted to the movie with amusement. I was especially surprised by the fact that they understood the nuances in the dialog. When I was editing, I was afraid that the public abroad would not get all the hints and the allusions in the movie. I was afraid they would not get who Uncle Nick was, as we referred to Nicolae Ceausescu. I was afraid they would not get the fact that you could fear a neighbor, how you could suspect your wife of reporting on you, and so on. I was afraid that the movie would get stuck in a local universe, and that the message would only reach East Europeans. I can say I was amazed when it started getting shortlisted in festivals, I almost could not believe that its message started being understood by festival panels. I was very happy about that. I was also happy that what seemed to me to be localized was in fact universal, easily understood through the lens of power relationships, fear, paranoia. I even remember that, while I was at a festival, someone told me that they appreciated the fact that I set aside the larger historical context, which everyone knows, and I focused only on what was going on in a single apartment. I would dare say that seen from abroad, the history of the Revolution is clearer than we see it from the inside.”