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Astra Film Festival

Astra Film Festival 2007

My Transylvania

The highlight of the Astra Film Festival in 2007 is Transylvania, Siebenbürgen in German and Erdély in Hungarian. My Transylvania brings together the present social diversity viewed by filmmakers from Romania and from abroad. The thirtheen documentaries in our special programme have been produced in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, UK, Hunary and Romania. There is also an exhibition of 120 photographs made by 42 photographers, Transylvanian music, and Transylvanian brandy.

Ethnical Groups

The heritage of a tormented history and the poor flow of information between the ethnical groups living in Transylvania may be the reasons for the present day subtle, symbolic, psycho-moral and socio-intellectual struggle. The television film People of Romania by Dan Curean pictures this region’s ethnic diversity. The observational documentaries and the journalist investigations that go beyond taboos have the power to get into people’s everyday lives, to show mentalities, and to analyse the space where stereotypes are likely to appear and proliferate, unravelling the complex medium where they came from. These issues are emphasized in the special  programme My Transylvania in Balcan Champion and Hungarian ID, showing the point of view of the Hungarians, while  Beyond the Forest and We are staying show the Saxon’s view on the subject.

Traditions and every day life in postcommunist capitalism in Transilvania
Transilvania has always been perceived as a craddle of traditions, and foreign filmakers and photographers ave always been impressed by the colourful traditional lifestyle of the people in this region. In films like Obcina, one can feel the admiration of the filmaker regarding the Rutenian people living in the Maramureş Mountains. Their lifestyle is perceived as a very exotic one by the filmmaker and presented as such in the film. Another example wquld be the Romanian television reportage Bhigtut, which does not exceed the pattern of tv documentaries on traditions and folkore.

Recent documentaries on the same issue highlight  the dramatic changes and the rapid disappearance of tradition in the context of the rural population’s mass migrance to EU countries. One of the most important production on this subject is the three-parts series Last Peasants by Angus Macqueen, which has been broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC. The series portrays the lives of migrant workers from Maramureş in France and Ireland, comparing it with the life they left behind in their villages in Romania.  

The films Slow Szék and We are gonna seed the land offer a rare occasion to witness the changes of the past 30 years, starting with 1970 when Szék was a traditional Hungarian village, until the years 2000 when 80% of tbe population is working abroad. The first film was made by the well known Hungarian documentarists – the Gulyás brothers and the second one by the cultural anthropology students from Miskolc under the coordination of Gulyás Gyula, as a visual anthroplogy professor.

Labour migration and its effects on the everyday life of a Transilvanian city emerges from the point of view of a kid whose mother works in Western Europe, in Independence. Bar de zi and other stories is a foray in the daily life of  people living in Sibiu’s Lower City. The film goes beyond the usual subjects approached by filmmakers when it comes to Transylvania. Low cost 110 Eu shows the everyday life of women workers in Medias as compared to their fellow-workers from France, who are employed by the same Romanian – French company.

Balkan Champion

Director: Reka Kincses
Country: Germany
Year: 2006
Length: 86

The 1990s were troubled years in Romania’s recent history, a period of confusion and anxiety. The status quo of the communist regime was gone. Before, Ceausescu had been everybody’s enemy, and this situation had created certain solidarity between people. It was rather easy to distinguish between friends and enemies. With the dictator’s physical disappearance, people felt free to express all their frustrations. And most often they did it in a violent way. The background was favourable for conflicts of all sorts, including ethnic conflicts. The film reveals this period through first-hand experience. The main character is the author’s father, and his involvement in the events that followed the Revolution has provoked crucial changes in the life of his family. As a distinguished member of the Hungarian ethnic minority, he firmly expressed his position against the communist Secret Service (Securitate). In early 1990, it was an act of political suicide, and even put his life in danger. After sixteen years and after running for Parliament for five times, this champion of correctitude and intransigence does not find his place in the new system.

Bar de zi and Other Stories

Director: Corina Radu
Country: Romania
Year: 2007
Length: 53
Regular people living in a regular neighbourhood. Through a series of portraits, the film traces the daily history of the Downhill City of Sibiu. Without spectacular plots and without romantic-like subjects, just samples of regular life. Thriving or failing people, who live with or without regrets... A puzzle that shapes up a specific world.
Beyond the Forest

Director: Gerald Igor Hauzenberger
Country: Austria
Year: 2007
Length: 75
The recent mass migration of the German-Saxon population from Transylvania to Germany has been the cause for personal as well as collective dramas. One of them is the loneliness of those who have chosen to stay, either because they had nobody in Germany to go to, or because they refused to abandon their homes and lands. They feel at home in Transylvania, but how can you feel at home without your own?

Director: Carmen Elena Stoica
Country: Romania
Year: 2006
Length: 27
The documentary is an invitation to a traditional village gathering of women in Romania’s Oaş county, where brides’ hair is braid in a tradtional style for the wedding
Hungarian ID

Director: Gábor Ferenczi
Country: Hungary
Year: 2006
In early 2002 the Hungarian Government Hungary (with the right wing party FIDESZ in power at the time) issued a so called Status Act for the Hungarian ethnic diaspora. As part of this law every Hungarian ethnic person from the historical diaspora in the neighbouring countries of Hungary (Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Slovacia, Austria) could ask for a so called Magyar igazolvány, a Hungarian ID card to prove Hungarian identity. According to this act, the use of the card would offer facilities to those who owned it, such as discount travel fairs and entry tickets in museums in Hungary, and others. Apart from the practical uses, the card had a symbolic value that caused a lot of controversies.
This film made by a Hungarian documentary director follows the peculiar situations that occurred because of the ID within the Hungarian community in Transilvania.

Director: Rastko Petrović
Country: Romania
Year: 2006
Length: 25
Independence is a former one-person apartments building in Sibiu, transformed into a block of flats. The very narrow apartments make life not very comfortable here. Răzvan is a child living in the Independence building, whose mother left to Western Europe for work. A sensitive portrait of a child who tries to live a normal life, but who sometimes is overwhelmed by the feeling of missing his mother.
The Last Peasants - Journey

Director: Angus Macqueen
Country: U.K.
Year: 2004
Length: 49
Angus Macqueen’s three-part series follows the human stories of three Romanian families torn apart by the realities of migration. The remote village of Budesti in Northern Romania is a world of of the past, filled with horses and carts, and medieval beliefs. But the young villagers see no romance in their existence. Their eyes are turned to the modern world of the West. In Budesti, every family has an illegal immigrant abroad. In Journeys, he explores the realities facing the immigrants. Observational, up-close, and touching, the film looks at the changes imposed on the local community by the collapse of Communism and the new relationship with Western Europe. At the same time, The Last Peasants depicts the agony of the peasant culture that has survived two World Wars and half a century of communism, but is threatened with extinction after just a decade of democracy.

Director: Björn Reinhardt
Country: Germany
Year: 2006
Length: 80
Obcina is a small village hidden in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. In summer, some dozens of  Ruthenians live and work there.  In winter they all leave the village because of the extreme weather conditions, except the cooper’s family. The Cuts have survived many winters up in the mountain, until an unexpected event threatened their lives. One day Stefan Cut had too much to drink and as he was walking on the mountain paths, he fell asleep in the snow. The fingers from one  hand froze and amputation was the only solution. But Stefan delayed his decision to accept surgery. On the one hand, he feared the pain,  but on the other, he was concerned about his family. How could they possibly survive if he was not able to work anymore? Finally, Stefan’s operation is successful and he can make use of his hand again. But the family starts questioning whether they should go on living up in the mountain.  


People of Romania

Director: Dan Curean
Country: Romania
Year: 2006
Length: 21
Seven short films describe seven ethnic communities living in Romania. Their forefathers have settled here a long time ago, with hopes for a better life. The series informs about the history of each ethnical group  and sketches features of their cultural identity. 


Slow Szek

Director: Gyula Gulyás, János Gulyás
Country: Hungary
Length: 115

The town/village of Szék/Sic is in Transylvania, about 50 km North from Cluj Napoca, in a territory called Mezőség. As early as the Middle Ages, the settlement had the rank of a town because of its salt mines. Later, in the 19th century, when ther was no more salt to mine, the town of Szék regressed to the statute of a village. The Roman churches, Gothic frescos and architectural monuments are the reminders of its glorious past. Its traditional folkmusic, that served as a basis for the Hungarian folk-dance movement, had its high time during the 1960’s, the time when the base of the film was made. At this time not only the folkmusic but other cultural aspects were also vivid. The film attempts to show this from the perspective of three generations. 


Stăm - We Are Staying

Director: Anne Schiltz, Charlotte Grégoire
Country: Luxemburg
Year: 2006
Length: 54
Two filmmakers spend time getting to know Ruth and Natalia, two young Romanian women who grew up together in the Transylvanian village of Malancrav.  One of them is a Gypsy, the other is a Saxon; one left the village, the other chose to stay. The only thing they seem to share is their friendship. The film explores the relationship of the two women and questions our understanding of social and ethnic belonging, migration, money, rural life and the search for one’s roots. 


We're Gonna Seed The Land In Some Future Time

Director: Gyuris Gábor, Ádám Levente Soós, János Beregszaszi, Ágnes Feczkó
Country: Hungary
Year: 2004
Length: 44
Szék, this Hungarian speaking community in the North-Western part of Mezőség in Transilvania, Romania, uniquely preserved its heritage and social-cultural integrity until the political changes in 1989. Its traditional dances, folk songs, traditional costumes, which can be seen even today, and other folklores made Szék a remarkable place. It has been frequented by ethnographers, professional and amateur photographers, documentarists and travellers interested in folklore from all over the world for a long time. However, the political changes in 1989 brought many changes in the life of the community: ”The World has opened up”, traditions – so far very important – have been eliminated from one day to the other. Along with this working abroad became a very favoured thing: the 80 percent of the inhabitants, who are able to work, works abroad – the men work at house constructions and the women take on cleaning jobs at families. Szék people spend the three-quarter of their year working away from home, and sometimes work 10 or 12 hours a day. The money they earn they mostly spend on building 8 – 14 room houses, whose most important function is to represent the families’ financial status.This life style, however endangers the community and the institution of the family. While the parents are away, the children are left with the grandparents, who are not able to replace the parents’ caring, educating and coordinating role. Szék people are aware of the destructive effects of their chosen life strategy, they are aware that their sacrifice – in which they force their children too- is irrational, but they du not actually try to change their situation. The aim of the documentary, on one hand, is to comprehensively draw the image of the ambiguous and tense society of Szék, which is mostly characterised by the contrast of the traditional culture and the modern world (most vividly found in the notion of ”generation gap”). On the other hand, the film-makers attempt to show the everyday drama of Szék people today, through the life of a three generation family. The film was made within the three year research programme set by the Cultural and Visual Anthropology Department at the University of Miskolc, which focuses on the consequences of the political system change in five communities in the Carpatian-basin.