A total of 17 films depict on screen the Romanian reality of the past decades at Sibiu International Festival Astra Film, from 15 to 21 October. Of these, 13 pictures participate in competition, 2 are presented in the thematic programs, and 2 films are part of the retrospective section.
Astra Film Festival creates for non-fiction cinema a space to network and examine, where movie lovers, professionals, and the general public come to experience a new awareness of issues and perspectives of the world we live in. Considering that art is at its best when it hits a nerve, the documentary, which explores reality’s most tender spots, becomes today the most powerful form of contemporary art, the very soul and conscience of cinema. The 17 productions about the reality of the Romanian spirit and space give us the opportunity to look and be looked at, through subjective stories and intimate portraits we otherwise would not encounter.
The AFF 2018 competition program includes 9 Romanian films in AFF Romania, 3 films in AFF Shorts (Daiana, directed by Ozana Nicolau; Marie, directed by Letitia Popa; My Father, Imre, directed by Andreea Stiliuc) and one movie in the AFF Student section (If Objects Could Speak, directed by Luiza Pârvu, Toma Peiu).
The Romanian competition at AFF 2018 approaches sensitive topics, such as the intergenerational relationships and the effects of time passing, the quest for national identity in a divided and irrational world, and the duality fate-destiny in taking control of our lives.
A case in point for Mature Views are the films Anniversary (Claudiu Mitcu) – World premiere at AFF 2018; Nussbaum 95736 (Csibi László) – Awarded last year at Near Nazareth Festival, Berlin Flash Film Festival and Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards; and Licu, a Romanian Story (Anda Dumitrescu) – Golden Dove winner at DOK Leipzig 2017.
Anniversary reflects on life as seen by a family gathered around their grandfather’s 91st birth anniversary, who regards with equal serenity and detachment both his life with his large and multigenerational family, and the arrangements for his final resting place. Nussbaum 95736 tells the young László Nussbaum’s story of survival, hope and forgiveness, first as prisoner no. 95736 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and afterwards as the only survivor of his family. Licu, a Romanian Story is a metaphor on our own condition and ephemerality, a life lesson about a century-old experience, as well as an X-ray of Romania’s last century as taken by Licu at 92, with amazing memory and vitality.
Against the Odds thematic program is very much a portrait series of those who, despite dire circumstances, stand up for their values and follow their dreams. In Caisă – Cinderella Kid (Alexandru Mavrodineanu, Tudor Giurgiu) a veteran boxing coach tries to turn an underprivileged teenager into the next big boxing star, talking about persistence and resilience in a hostile social environment. Megaphone (Ruxandra Gubernat, Henry Rammelt, Marcel Schreiter) is an astute case study of the young Romanian democracy struggling with itself and the uncertain future of Europe, as well as of the could-be awakening of our political conscience through protests against a corrupt and failing government. Monyo + Baba (Arthur Bálint, World Premiere at AFF 2018) shows a young couple who share both the stage and personal life, as they navigate the hardships of leading an uncompromising artistic life.
Several Rites of Passage are described in the films Mockup Wedding (Mihai Andrei Leaha) – a tender satire on the style and tradition of wedding homemade videos and a celebration of the ethnographic traditions of the small community in the Banat region it observes, and Wedding of the Year (József Bán, World premiere at AFF 2018) – the story of the 1990s emigration’s aftermath for the depopulated Oas County, which comes back to life only in August, when the locals who live and work abroad come back home for a few weeks, and the region becomes a gigantic wedding celebration.
The controversial subject Far-right Near Us is examined in the documentary The Free Dacians (Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan) from the different points of view expressed by people living in a Dacian village, a group of Dacian mystics, the administrator of UNESCO site Sarmizegetusa Regia, and the participants in Dacology congresses. They are all united by their common love for the Dacians, but are divided by their different perspectives on a historical episode that is becoming more and more popular in Romania.
Two special Romanian entries in the Astra Film Festival thematic programs are the premiere screenings of Timebox (Nora Catrina Agapi) and Young Mind (Dan Diamancescu). An intimate look at our aspiration for relevance and the desire to be remembered, Timebox is the story of a documentary photographer who struggles for his personal archive of more than 21,000 meters of film shot over 30 years and countless significant artefacts belonging in a museum of everyday life, to be saved and cherished. Young Mind follows the journey taken by Nicholas Dimancescu (1985-2011) (director Diamancescu’s son) from being a whiz kid with an unusual curiosity to a promising artist with a special way of getting close to people, and an accomplished documentary filmmaker. Featured are people and events that influenced his view of the world and his evolution from comics, to graphic novels, to documentary film work.
The retrospective section Road to Europe of Astra Film Festival 2018 includes 10 films about the crossroads that marked recent history, life stories from the unconventional picture of the ex-communist countries’ journey towards Europe, of which 2 are Romanian productions.
A unique document on the mood of a nation shortly after the bloody days of the 1989 Romanian Revolution is offered in the After Revolution (Laurenţiu Calciu, 2010), an observational documentary shot at eye level on the streets of Bucharest. Filmed in 1990 and edited twenty years later, the documentary is full of meaning now more than ever, since the political and economic situation in Romania today is merely a consequence of what can be seen in the images captured almost thirty years ago. Reflecting the turbulent decade of the 1990s for Romania and starting from a series of intense family confrontations, Balkan Champion (Kincses Reka, 2006) reconstructs a personal family story as part of a larger community drama, and manages to render a highly credible picture of a political context and its roots in ethnic tensions.
Sibiu International Festival Astra Film was launched in 1993 as a groundbreaking project in the Central and Eastern Europe. Its contribution to establishing a framework for the development of documentary cinema in the whole region, and in Romania in particular, has been consequential. It has constantly attracted industry’s attention to the art of non-fiction film by supporting the development of the genre and opening new horizons for the documentarists. Astra Film Festival 2018 is organized by Astra Film, CNM Astra and Astra Film Foundation, with the support of the County Council of Sibiu, the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, and the Romanian Film Center. The event is cofinanced by Sibiu City Council through the Sibiu City Hall and by the European Union through its Creative Media Program.
Astra Film Festival is held under the High Patronage of the President of Romania.