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Astra Film Festival

Astra Film Festival 2006

Romania - Retrospective

Motto: "A country without documentary films is like a family a family without a photo album".

1989 marked an outburst of the Romanian media. Nevertheless, the phenomenon did not bring the documentary film into focus. The production of documentaries was still the prerogative of television channels, and therefore could not escape the TV reportage format or the cinematographic essay style fostered by the single documentary film studio that had functioned in Romania before 1989.

In 90s, few filmmakers dare take the adventurous track of independent production, and those who did found the support, whether financial or of any other kind. On the other hand, statistics reveal that foreign TV channels specialized on commercial documentary films, which were accessible to the Romanian audience due to tye cable networks. make good ratings, proving that the interest for documentary films is remarkably high in the country. Paradoxically, while the domestic documentary film production experienced difficult times, Romania has becoming a favourite destination for foreign television cahnnels and independent producers from abroad, who made an average of 20 films per year. Despite of unfavourable conditions, the Romanian documentary film has had its share of successes. Putting them all together, we can make up a ' photo album' of the troubled 90s, the decade of the transition.

ASTRA FILM FEST 2006 offers you the unique chance to meet the most aclaimed and awarded Romanian documentaries made during the past sixteen years.

The Apocalypse By Cioran

Director: Sorin Ilieşiu
Country: Romania
Year: 1995
Length: 58

"Universal history is nothing more than the recurrence of catastrophes in the expectation of one final catastrophe." - E.M.Cioran

The film brings the viewer to Cioran’s home in Paris, walks along with him to his favourite places, and records his recollections of a “lost Paradise”, his place of birth in a village near Sibiu, where he never returned. We meet Cioran the philosopher and Cioran the man, profound and explosively humorous, shortly before his departure from this world. The film is narrated by the outstanding Romanian philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu.


Babu - Cazul Gheorghe Ursu

Director: Cornel Mihalache
Country: Romania
Year: 1996
Length: 47
In 1985, Dipl. Engineer Gheorghe Ursu, nicknamed Babu, was arrested by the communist authorities because they had found out about his diary, where Babu put down everything he saw and heard about what was happening in the country in those days. In November 1985, Ursu was beaten to death in his prison cell by his room-mates. One of the aggressors was an informer working for the Militia and the Secret Service, the Securitate. The film combines the interview where the latter gives his version of the story with Babu’s voice from an old recording made by one of his friends in Paris in 1978, and with the accounts of another of Babu’s friends, a Romanian SF writer living in Paris since 1967. Babu’s friends accuse the authorities for delaying this murder case. The story is told by the murderer, the victim and the victim’s friend. Only the murderer has survived.


The Curse of the Hedgehog

Director: Dumitru Budrala
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 93

“I cared for my donkey more than for my own man and kids. But now it's dead. If I had a donkey now, I would live like a Member of Parliament.” concludes Turica, one of the main characters in the film. She and her relatives wander from village to village, carrying on their backs huge bundles of handmade brooms and baskets, which they try to trade for food.

The filmmaker follows this extremely poor Gypsy family in their survival winter trips. With a cine-verite camera style, the film goes beyond all Gypsy stereotype. We see real people coping with the absurd or the tragicomic situations in their everyday life. A remarkable photography, together with the very rich oral tradition of the character brings us in a world whose existence is almost inconceivable to most of us.


The Great Communist Bank Robbery

Director: Alexandru Solomon
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 74
In 1959 there was robbery at the Romanian National Bank in Bucharest. The robbers were six formerly high-ranked members of the communist party. They were arrested and then forced to play themselves in a propaganda film meant to reconstruct the crime and the investigations that followed it. At the end of the trial (also filmed), the defendants were sentenced to death and executed. Three weeks later, the film “Reconstruction” was released. The author of this documentary carefully researched this incredible story and found terrible testimonies related to the events that happened more than fourty years ago.


Land of Silence

Director: Robert Lakatos
Country: Romania/ Hungary
Year: 2002
Length: 37
What can a photo camera mean for a 10-years old boy who lives in a soundless world? The film follows the summer holiday adventures of Alfred who can neither hear nor speak. Because of his handicap, he attends a special school in Cluj. Back home for his holidays, he meets a photographer from a neighbouring village. The man, who has the same handicap as Alfred, offers the boy a photo camera. And Alfred’s adventure begins.



Director: Thomas Ciulei
Country: Germany/ Romania
Year: 1995
Length: 45

The people in Izbuc, a village in the Romanian Carpatian mountains, believe their fellow villager Gratian Florea to be a werewolf. According to an old custom, when a child is born, the midwifes call upon the spirits, to make the child hard working, beautiful, loveable or wise. It is said that when Gratian was born, the umbilical cord broke only after the midwife called forth the werewolf. This crucial moment was to influence his whole life. His family and the whole village rejected him. At 73, Gratian lives in a shack outside the village, without water of heating.

Every saturday Gratian goes into the village to beg for the food he needs for the following week. The saying goes, that those who refused to give him something will have their sheep eaten by wolves after a few days. In his solitude, Gratian works with astronomical numbers. He says that his thoughts about belief, moral values, and eternal life will help him discover infinity. He sees himself as a traveler into the universe, who at a certain time will surpass the wordly existence and the essesnce of his sould will become equal to God.


Ion Tuculescu - Self Portrait On An Autumn Leaf

Director: Laurenţiu Damian
Country: Romania
Year: 1999
Length: 21
"To paint means to let yourself carried away by an inner drive". This painter ion Tuculescu’s artistic faith. The film explores the secret world of the artist, a world full of secrets. His utmost desire has been to be „a primitive”, to let only his instict be his guide. The film is a story that goes beyond the artist’s easel.


The Land is Waiting

Director: Laurenţiu Calciu
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 59

The film explores the life of an extremely poor family, living in a village in northeast Romania. The parents have made incredible efforts to send all ten of their children to school. Five of them have even made it to the university in the city. The film focuses on Mihai, one of their sons. After less than one year of study, Mihai had to give up Theological School. He chose to return to the village and help his family work the tiny plot of land they own. Because he plans to return to the university next year, he uses every spare moment to study for his exams. He talks about his short experience in the city, and about the marginalization of the students of rural origin. Daily routine is interrupted by the occasional conflicts with his overworked mother. However, there are also the little joys of the household, such as when a calf is born or the goslings hatch. A film about the destiny of a young man who is caught between two worlds.



Goldfaden’s Legacy

Director: Radu Gabrea
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 58
In 1908, a Jewish funeral procession of over 70,000 people blocked the traffic in Manhattan. The next day, newspapers revealed to whom all those people wanted to pay their last tribute. His name was Avram Goldfaden, poet and playwright, called “Shakespeare of the Jews”. 126 years ago, Goldfaden founded in Romania the first professional theatre, in the city Iasi, in Northern Moldavia. In 1876, Mihai Eminescu, the poet, wrote a review about the new theatre and noted that “the director has a pleasant voice and a handsome appearance”. The film follows Goldfaden’s journey from Iasi, Romania to New York and rediscovers an outstanding figure of Jewish culture.


Children on The Decree

Director: Florin Iepan
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 68

In October 1966 Nicolae Ceauşescu was signing Decree no. 770, through which abortions were forbidden to Romanian women, under the penalty of jail; the only women who were legally entitled to have an abortion were the ones over 40 or those who had at least 4 children in care.

For the Dictator, the decree was the birth certificate of the New Man, obtained through racial and ethnical purification. In reality, Ceauşescu symbolically signed his own death conviction;”after a quarter of a century, he was going to be killed by the children born at his own command”.

Born on command is in the first place a film that fights against forgetting and repeating the mistakes of the past.



The Bridge

Director: Ileana Stănculescu
Country: Romania
Year: 2004
Length: 75

One of the bridges across the river Tisa has a long and complicated story: the bridge between Sighet and Slatina. Sighet is a small town in the north of Romania, close to the Romanian-Ukrainian border, and Slatina the neighbouring town on the Ukrainian bank of the Tisa.

This bridge has been build during the Austrian-Hungarian empire and destroyed shortly before the end of the Second World War.

A whole web of family, cultural and economic ties was destroyed after this war. The northern bank of the river became part of the Soviet Union while the southern bank continued to be Romanian. The river Tisa separated the two towns for more than fifty years.


Timişoara. December 1989

Director: Ovidiu Bose Paştină
Country: Romania
Year: 1991
Length: 78
Set in the title Romanian city during the tumultuous fall of Communist dictator Ceaucescu, this documentary chronicles the attempts of government soldiers to quell a citizens revolt. But during the few days of the uprising a surprising thing happened--the soldiers joined the citizens. The filmmakers use interviews, video footage of the events and archival photographs to recreate the rebellion, but due to a lack of explanation within the film, the chronicle will be most useful to historians and those well-informed in recent Eastern European history.