For 30 years, Astra Film Festival has set the tonefor documentary filmmaking
The best productions of the year will be awarded in Sibiu in less than a month
What are the best Romanian documentary films of the past year? We will find out in less than a month in Sibiu, where the anniversary edition of the Astra Film Festival (October 15-22) will take place. In its 30 years of existence, the Sibiu festival has played a significant role in stimulating non-fiction filmmaking and debates on issues that concern Romanian society, becoming the number one platform for Romanian and international documentary cinema and decisively contributing to inscribing this cinematic genre on Romania's cultural agenda. This year's official selection includes over 130 productions from around the world, with most of them being premieres. Eleven of these, created by established authors, prestigious names in Romanian documentary filmmaking, as well as directors from the new wave, are in the final race for the Romania Competition awards. Other important awards will be given to the best films in the "New Voices in Documentary Cinema," "Central and Eastern European," and "DocSchool" (student film) competitions. The final list of selected films for the festival can be found here: https://www.astrafilm.ro/en/2023/complete-program
Since 1993, Astra Film Festival has been an uninterrupted and increasingly powerful presence in Romania's cultural life, being considered one of the remarkable events that "promote Romanian culture and values worldwide and define us as a nation.“
In its 30-year history, Astra Film Festival has attracted renowned figures from the world of documentary cinema in Romania and from all over the globe, turning the city in the heart of the country into a true capital of non-fiction film. This is all the more remarkable considering that, in order to secure funding for its first edition, the festival received an original sponsorship: two trailers filled with potatoes. "There were no mechanisms for financial or other support from the institutions that administered culture in Romania," recalls Dumitru Budrala, the festival's founder and director. Although funding has always been a major challenge, the festival has grown year by year. It even gave rise to a children's and youth festival in 2009, Astra Film Junior, the most comprehensive film education program.
In the early editions, films were projected on television. They were recorded on video cassettes because, at the time, cinemas were connected to the film distribution network. "At that time, factors like resolution and the small TV screen didn't matter as much as the fact that the audience had access to a new type of documentary film that brought real people and real societal issues to the forefront," said Dumitru Budrala, who recalls that during the first edition, the audience left the screening of a film that they found to have an unacceptable direct approach. "But documentary filmmakers tackle the topics that concern them, even taboo subjects," explains Budrala.
Since the very first edition, each film has been followed by a dialogue between filmmakers and the audience, a tradition that has been perpetuated to this day. In respect of the principle of freedom of expression and the right to opinion, Astra Film Festival has taken on the role of creating a safe and lively space for different approaches to meet and ideas to clash. This has given rise to one of the most powerful and sophisticated cultural communities in Romania, the Astra Film community.
At the same time, the festival's organizers have always felt challenged to keep up with the changing technology used in film production. There have been numerous changes. We have moved from magnetic tape and discs, from U-matic, VHS, and Betacam & DigiBeta to MiniDV, DVCAM, Digital8, DVCPro, or DVCProHD, DVD, and HDCam, to digital file formats, and finally to DCP (the currently accepted digital format for cinema screenings). Even though Romania has always lagged behind Western Europe, Astra Film Festival has consistently been at the forefront of these changes.
The spectacular development of technology has made it possible for anyone to film, contributing to the diversification of documentary film production, including in terms of subjects and approaches. Already, video productions shot with smartphones are gaining recognition, and remarkable documentary films have been made in this way. Just as, for example, life lived online in VR games becomes an exciting film subject. The documentary film remains a fresco of contemporary society.
Having become a landmark on the map of documentary filmmaking, Astra Film is the place where, every year, productions that have later entered the international circuit were launched. This year's edition follows the tradition: three-quarters of the selected films are premieres. Alongside them, Sibiu will host productions already awarded at Sundance, Cannes, Berlinale, or IDFA. The program is completed by films selected for the full-dome cinema, installed in the Main Square. A record audience is expected between October 16 and 22 at Astra Film Junior, the festival dedicated to children and teenagers since 2009. The anniversary edition includes discussions among representatives of the documentary film industry, taking place within the DokTank program, as well as concerts, book launches, exhibitions, parties, and surprise events over eight days of festival, as rich as a 30-year history.
About Astra Film Festival
Astra Film Festival Sibiu, launched in 1993 as an innovative project, is one of the most important non-fiction film festivals in Europe. Under the High Patronage of the President of Romania, the festival is organized by Astra Film, CNM Astra and the Astra Film Foundation, with the Ministry of Culture as a strategic partner, with the support of the Sibiu County Council, the National Center of Cinematography, the Romanian Cultural Institute, the Consulate of the Federal Republic Germany in Sibiu and the Union of Cinematographers. The event is co-financed by the Sibiu City Council through the Sibiu City Hall.
Strategic partner: Ministry of Culture
Sponsors: HBO Go, Cinelab, Materom Autohaus, Luthelo, CineGOLD, Promenada Mall, DPD Romania, Kulinarium, Sonne
Monitoring partner: MediaTrust
Media partners: Europa FM, TV5 Monde, News.ro, G4media, Hotnews, Spotmedia, PressHub, Turnul Sfatului, Sibiu 100%, Tribuna, Messagerul de Sibiu, Ora de Sibiu, independent Sibiu, Sibiul azi, Hermannstädter Zeitung, Nine O` Clock, Scena9, Cinemagia, Cineuropa, Film New Europe, Observator cultural, Timpul, AaRC, MovieNews, Cinefan, Cinefilia, Liternet, Cultural Capital, Revista Transilvania, Filmtett.
Communication partner: PiArt Vision