At the 2006 Telluride Film Festival, of the films that might have never been released, I probably liked 12:08 East of Bucharest best. The film is human, political, funny, and well observed.
Now that I’ve seen it, I realize that it was also probably simple and inexpensive to produce. It takes place almost entirely in one stripped-down set. But because the first half-hour takes place in various apartments and on the streets of a small city, the film feels bigger than it is. Kudos to young filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu for finding a way to pull off that trick.
The movie follows several characters. One is an old man, tormented by the kids in his apartment building, and who is nevertheless asked to play Santa Claus one more time. There is also a TV producer cum talk-show host who needs local experts for his show on the Romanian revolution.
The final half of the film is the “live” broadcast of the show in which TV host asks his guests — the uncomfortable old Santa, plus an alcoholic academic — whether their city helped spark the Romanian revolution, or whether it merely joined the celebrations after Ceaucescu stepped out of power, at 12:08 PM on that day.