Radu Mihăileanu

France, Romania, Israel, Belgium, Netherlands, 1998 / 103 min / German version / comedy, drama, history

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020

A group of Eastern European Jews come up with a bold plan to escape the advancing Germans: They’ll build their own fake deportation train.

One evening in 1941, the village fool of a small Jewish community in Eastern Europe, warns his fellow townsfolk that the Germans have arrived in the area and have begun slaughtering the inhabitants of the nearby shtetls, deporting the survivors to an unknown destination. The same night, the village elders meet in a hurry to discuss how to save their community. Just before dawn, they agree on a solution: to escape the Nazis, they’ll have to get their hands on a fake deportation train. Playing the role of deportees, train engineers and German soldiers all at once, the villagers will get through the German checkpoints, cross the Russian border and reach the Promised Land. But as the Russian border gets closer, tensions among the villagers rise as some of them start settling in a little too much into their new role as German officers while others found a militant communist cell.


The screening will be followed by a discussion with one of the film’s main actors, Rufus, and Yves Steichen of the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA), as well as a representative of the Zentrum fir politesch Bildung.


“Mihăileanu's contribution to this strangest of genres plays like Life Is Beautiful meets Fiddler On The Roof […] an offbeat and earnest piece of work, which focuses itself on telling its ripping yarn in a comic and poignant manner rather than drenching it in sentimentality. Mihăileanu tells the fable with a fantastical, vaguely surreal feel, that makes clever use of some standard Jewish tunes and draws neat performances from [the cast]” William Thomas, Empire, 1/01/2000

  • David for the Best Foreign Film, David di Donatello Awards, 1999 (Italy)
  • Audience Award – Most Popular Feature, Hamptons International Film Festival, 1999 (USA)
  • European Silver Ribbon, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, 1999 (Italy)
  • Audience Award, Miami Film Festival, 1999 (USA)
  • Audience Award – World Cinema, Sundance Film Festival, 1999 (USA)
  • Audience Award, Film Festival Cottbus – Festival of Eastern European Cinema, 1998 (Germany)
  • Critics Award, São Paolo International Film Festival, 1998 (Brazil)
  • Audience Award – Best Feature, São Paolo International Film Festival, 1998 (Brazil)
  • FIPRESCI Prize – Best First Work, Venice Film Festival, 1998 (Italy)
  • Anicaflash Prize, Venice Film Festival, 1998 (Italy)
Cast & Credits
Lionel Abelanski, Rufus, Clément Harari, Bruno Abraham-Kremer, Agathe de La Fontaine, Johan Leysen, Marie-José Nat, Gad Elmaleh, Serge Kribus, Rodica Sanda Ţuţuianu, Michel Muller
Radu Mihăileanu
Yorgos Arvanitis, Laurent Dailland
Pierre Escoffier, Eric DeVos, Dominique Dalmasso
Christian Niculescu
Goran Bregović
Noé Productions, Raphaël Films, Belfilms, Hungry Eye Lowland Pictures, PolyGram Audiovisuel, Sofinergie 4
Tiberius Film

Radu Mihăileanu is a French-Romanian director and screenwriter born in 1958 in Romania. He started out as an actor at the Yiddish Theatre in Bucharest and as coordinator of a theatre company. In 1980, under the Ceaușescu regime, he manages to emigrate to France where he enrols at the IDHEC cinematographic institute in Paris. After graduating, he works as a trainee editor, before meeting filmmaker Marco Ferreri who hires him as his assistant on I Love You in 1986. Next, Radu Mihăileanu collaborates on several short and television films, and works as an assistant director and screenwriter for renowned filmmakers. In 1993, after a brief stint in the music video business, he directs his first feature film, Trahir, about the misadventures of a Romanian poet at odds with the Securitate. Train of Life (1998), his second feature film, wins the FIPRESCI Prize for the Best First Work at the Venice Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award in the World Cinema strand at Sundance Film Festival. In 2011, his fifth feature, The Source, premieres in competition in Cannes.

  • 2016 – L’histoire de l’amour
  • 2011 – La source des femmes
  • 2009 – Le concert
  • 2005 – Va, vis et deviens
  • 2002 – Les pygmées de Carlo
  • 1998 – Train de vie
  • 1997 – Bonjour Antoine
  • 1993 – Trahir
  • 1989 – Le mensonge d’un clochard (short)
  • 1980 – Les quatre saison (short)