The Romanian Film Festival in New York: A Director’s Trek From Immigrant to New Yorker

November 30, 2011 at 4:00 am

Where: Film Society of Lincoln Center
Opening: Nov. 30
Closing: Dec. 6
Price: $8-$13
A scene from Bogdan George Apetri’s “Outbound.” Photo courtesy of SundayArts

Now in its sixth year, the Romanian Film Festival in New York has moved uptown from Tribeca Cinemas to a new home at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Bogdan George Apetri, one of the festival’s featured directors, lives and works in New York but continues to create Romanian films. The director began a career in law in Romania before coming to New York to attend film school at age 25. He said his early appetite for American cinema was satiated with pirated VHS because “U.S. films were forbidden during Communism.”

Apetri’s film “Outbound,” screening on Dec. 4, is the story of a feisty young woman let out of prison for a day to attend her mother’s funeral — an opportunity she uses to plan her escape from Romania.

Today, around 60,000 people of Romanian origin live in New York State, according to statistics provided by the Romanian Consulate.

Bogdan George Apetri is a Romanian film director who lives and works in New York. He began a career in law in Romania before coming to New York to attend film school at age 25. Photo courtesy of Bogdan George Apetri.

“I arrived in America with only $900 in my pocket, but strangely enough, I wasn’t scared at all. It was extremely tough to survive — especially for the first year — but I enjoyed the strange mixture of being at the same time a poor immigrant and a bohemian artist,” said Apetri in an email. “And New York is a great place to live a life like that — not that being poor was my choice!”

Apetri said that New York offered creative opportunities for filmmakers unavailable in other places. “As a place to live and get inspiration on a daily basis, watch movies, meet interesting people and see interesting things, there are very few places in the world like New York,” said the filmmaker, who fondly remembers studying film at Columbia University.

“I still love Romania very much, and I feel Romanian in all respects, but after a decade here, I very much feel I am a New Yorker, too,” he said. “I will probably go on shooting movies not only in New York but also in other places of the world, but I know I am ‘stuck’ living here no matter what.”


In addition to “Outbound,” this year’s Romanian Film Festival includes several U.S. and world premieres and highlights the work of two filmmakers separated by a generation: Liviu Ciulei, one of the legendary masters of Romanian theatre and film, who passed away in October; and Radu Muntean, who is considered a participant in the Romanian New Wave cinema. Video courtesy of SundayArts.