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Astra Film 2016 Report: Romanian Documentaries

     The 23rd edition of the documentary film festival in Sibiu opened on the 17th of October, on Monday evening, at the Thalia Hall of the Sibiu State Philharmonic. At the opening ceremony, DumitruBudrala, the founding director of the Astra Film Festival spoke about this year`s selection and introduced the crew of the feature film Sieranevada, represented here by Cristi Puiu, Simona Ghiță and Ioana Crăciunescu. In the opening of the festival Sieranavada was screened in two locations at the same time – the Thalia Hall, following the opening gala and in the auditorium of the Sibiu Faculty of Medicine. The director and the two actresses attended one of the screening and answered the questions from the audience.
     This year`s selection includes many Romanian documentaries that were grouped in different categories. 
A Mere Breath (directed by Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan) and Cinema, mon amour (directed byAlexandruBelc) already had their national premieres at the TIFF and some others also had their official premieres – 
The AROMANIANS, from The famous Manakia to I`m not famous (directed by Toma Enache), Torna, Torna Fratre! (directed by Marian Voicu), or The Red Empress – The Life and Adventures of AnaPauker (directed by Radu Gabrea).
     The second day of the festival was a busy one for those who were interested in the Romanian documentary, with the three films from The Aromanians section screened at the Thalia Hall, starting with 5 o`clock p.m. and with two others from the Refurbished Past one at the Astra Studio Hall, starting with 6 o`clock p.m. At the same time, CristiPuiu met the audience of the festival at the Salut Bistro.
     I made my schedule choosing mainly the films that have their premiere at Astra. The Block, directed by Maria Șalaru was screened in the Refurbished Past section, together with the already established documentary directed by AlexandruBelc, Cinema Mon Amour. Maria Șalaru studied anthropology and philosophy at the Utrecht University College and has a Master`s Degree at Oxford. The visual anthropology program that she attended was a theoretical one; The Block is her first and only documentary. The film is a talkingheads with the inhabitants of a block of flats in Piatra Neamț, Maria`s native town, about the involvement of Mr.Bud in the managing of the common locative space. Though the inhabitants of that block are mostly aged people, with small
incomes, the building is one of the best kept ones from the neighborhood. The project started
 with some interviews that Maria took Mr.Bud, without the intention of making a documentary, but to use them as an instrument in her Ph.D research, about the changes that happened in the urban spaces in the ex-communist countries. Noticing that the subject is fit for a documentary, Maria starting taking interviews of other inhabitants of that block of flats, using the camera in order to get close to them and to take part in the social life of the block. The interviews were taken during an entire year and are part of her PhD final thesis.
     The other Romanian premiere that took place on Tuesday, the 18th of October was The Manakia Brothers. Diary of a Long Look Back, made by Eliza Zdru. The documentary was the last one screened in the Aromanians section, together with the other two already mentioned productions, at the Thalia Hall. The q&a was moderated by VintilăMihăilescu and was followed by a concert of Aromanian music.
The Manakia Brothers. Diary of a Long Look Backstarts with a pretext: the director finds a photo of her Aromanian great-grandparents that seem to have been taken by the Manakia Brothers and she embarks on an adventure for authenticating it. But her journey is in fact one of (re)discovering the brothers and their authentic history, navigating through the numerous stories about them that are all over the Balkans and about the claims of many states over their film heritage, as well as a journey of discovering her identity.
     In the following days Doc Talks: The Online World, with Constantin Nica and  a special meeting with  Frederick Wiseman will take place, as well as the screenings of the following documentaries: God Save the Partisans as We Wait for the Americans! (directed by Dragoș Zamosteanu), The New Gypsy Kings (directed by Liviu Tipuriță) and Pregnant in România (directed by Jesús Del Cerro).

Tags: astra film sibiu 2016, cinema mon amour film, cristi puiu, doar o rasuflare film, dumitru budrala, sieranevada film