Philanthropy, a Rare Romanian Comedy
The last two and a half decades brought a wave of unexpected and welcome attention from international film critics towards Romanian cinema. Many of the Romanian films making the festival circuits received multiple awards and generated interest and faithful followers all over the world.
From Nae Caranfil, the director of one of the most remarkable films of the New Romanian Cinema, undeservedly less known, E Pericoloso Sporgersi (1993), came Philanthropy (2001), one of the most popular in terms of audiences. A very rare comedy, delightful and charming, bitter with an undernote of sadness, it is the kind of film one enjoys watching once and again.
A hilariously surreal farce and a diabolical puzzle, Philanthropy takes a satiric look at the “miracle” of freedom and capitalism in modern-day Romania.
Sad-sack Ovidiu, 35, single and still living with his parents, belongs to Bucharest’s “beggars with a degree” class. A literature teacher, he gets no respect from his Mercedes-driving, cell phone-chatting students; his self-published book of fiction is a flop, barely earning him the equivalent of a tram ticket. But his life turns topsy-turvy, when he encounters jetsetting TV spokesmodel Diana. Smitten, Ovidiu presents himself as a successful novelist, convincing the young woman to go out with him. Unfortunately, a single night clubbing with Diana costs him an entire month’s wages!
Help arrives in the form of a “foundation”, Filantropica, headed up by the mysterious, fiendishly entrepreneurial Don Pepe. Half artist, half businessman, Pepe works as a beggars’ “writer”, a “casting director” for the poor, an impresario of indigency of sorts. And he has dreamed up a very unusual role for Ovidiu…
Overnight, the middle-aged teacher finds himself “married” to Miruna, Pepe’s own assistant. Every night, he and his fake wife become partners in a strange act. With the cash thus earned, Ovidiu can play the nouveau-riche and impress Diana on weekends.
But Pepe’s ultimate plans go way beyond his imagination…
“A biting satire that entertains every step of the way, Philanthropy cleverly indicts the many ways in which “freedom” has further constrained the beleaguered citizens of Romania while providing a field day for scam artists and the nouveau riche.”
~Lisa Nesselson (Variety)
“In Philanthropy the theme is the compassion industry, or to be more precise, what happens to a society that turns human compassion into a business.”
~Nae Caranfil, director (, interview by Marius Panduru, 2014)
“Filantropica simultaneously manages to be popular entertainment, a subversive movie and a (paradoxical) author manifesto, one that proves it is possible to make quality cinema without losing your audience or your individuality.”
~Alex. Leo Șerban (4 Decades, 3 Years and 2 Months Spent with Romanian Film, Polirom, 2009)
- Original title: Filantropica, a Domino Film Production, 2001, in association with Mact Production, with the participation of Romanian National Center for Cinema & Canal+, sustained by Eurimages.
- Written & Directed by Nae Caranfil
- Cast: Mircea Diaconu, Gheorghe Dinica, Mara Nicolescu, Marius Florea Vizante, Viorica Voda, Florin Zamfirescu, Constantin Draganescu, Monica Ghiuta.
- Director of photography: Vivi Dragan Vasile
- Original music composed and conducted by Marius Mihalache
- Costume designer: Svetlana Mihailescu
- 6 UCIN (Romanian Filmmakers Union) Awards (Grand Prize, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress)
- Audience Award, International Film Festival Paris 2002
- Special Jury Award, GoEast Festival, Wiesbaden 2002
- Young Jury Award, International Love Film Festival, Mons 2002
- Audience Award, Comedy Festival,“Juste pour Rire”, Montreal 2002
- Audience Award, International Film Weekend, Würtzburg 2003 (2002)
- Special Jury Award, International Francophonie Festival, Bratislava 2003 (2002)
- Best Screenplay Award, International Festival Newport Beach, USA 2003
- Best Francophone Film Award, Athens 2006
Other festivals: International Film Festival, Chicago 2002, International Film Festival, Moscow 2002, International Film Festival Transilvania, Cluj 2002, Pilsen 2004, Romanian Film Festival, Madison, Wisconsin 2007.
Photos and info courtesy