ISSN: 2241-6692

BLOG - Balkan Cinema

A far-reaching book printed in the UK and the US by a prestigious publishing house has been at last dedicated to contemporary Romanian cinema. It is a well-deserved and long-awaited one because Romanian filmmakers have strongly asserted themselves in the last decade or so. In order to better understand that this is of international significance we should notice that Romanian cinema – similarly to other Romanian arts – has never benefited from the honour of having a book entirely dedicated to it in English or other international language.

Dominique (Domnica) Nasta is a Professor of Film Studies at Université libre de Bruxelles and the author of two books: Meaning in Film: Relevant Structures in Soundtrack and Narrative (1992) i and New Perspectives in Sound Studies / Le son en perspective: nouvelles recherches (2004) ii, dealing with film music and sound. She has also contributed extensively to several encyclopedias and dictionaries on cinema (for instance the chapter on Romanian cinema in Storia del cinema mondiale [2000] edited by Gian Piero Brunetta iii). Perhaps not coincidentally, the author is of Romanian origin and lives in Brussels. Being an ‘outsider’ to some extent is both an advantage and disadvantage involving a certain distancing and lack of bias, but requiring great endeavor to see and review a long list of Romanian films and access a long bibliography in Romanian. In addition, Nasta returned several times to her native country to meet filmmakers and obtain important details from the directors Nae Caranfil, Radu Gabrea, Lucian Pintilie and Corneliu Porumboiu, as well as from the scriptwriter Razvan Radulescu and the cinematographer Oleg Mutu. ... More

Financially leaner than during the previous post-crisis years, the 55th Thessaloniki International Film Festival continued to successfully serve its key aim of offering a varied, challenging and engaging programme of independent films from around the world to audiences in Greece’s second-largest city.i It also presented the most expansive programme of Greek films for years, celebrating the centenary of Greek cinema by screening a total of 36 features, of which 20 were voted online from a selection of 200 films from the past. Aside from marking the appearance of the first Greek feature-length film Golfo in 1914, the Greek programme also reflected the dynamism and international recognition of Greek cinema in the last five years. This renewed emphasis on the projection of national production foregrounds questions about the primary role of the festival: is it predominantly a space for nurturing and promoting Greek talent, or rather a Greece-based site for international discoveries? One also wonders whether the behind-the-scenes, but widely reported, tensions among the festival’s artistic director, Dimitris Eipides (whose term in office was extended by another three years in September) and the president of its board of governors, film director Yannis Smaragdis, have in any way been connected to this shift in emphasis, and whether the increased presence of Greek cinema will remain a more permanent feature of future festival editions.ii ... More

Source: ΧΡΟΝΟΣ online magazine

Vangelis Calotychos’s new book is a study of the negotiations and metamorphoses of images of the Self and the Other in the changing post-1989 contexts of Europe and the Balkans. Read against the background of Greece’s position in the immediate Balkan vicinity as well as within the broader European project, Calotychos analyses how semantics of sameness and difference and their corresponding “gazes” of recognition and distance were generated in Greek society in the late 1980s propelled as much by the shifting contours of the regional and geopolitical contexts as well as by the inflow of mass immigration from neighboring countries. The book’s analytical standpoint is rooted in the tradition of postcolonial studies dealing with the colonization of the imaginary and a strand of research inquiring into the historical contingencies against which the colonization of the mind took place. Taking the year 1989 as a watershed, Calotychos’s central argument claims that the fundamental negotiations in Greek society concerning issues such as modernization and Europeanization were made through and by reference to Balkan themes and contexts of signification, a point that is convincingly argued throughout the whole book. Indebted to cultural studies, Calotychos’ includes in his analysis political and popular discourses, literature and film. His take demonstrates an interdisciplinary engagement and includes next to cultural theory and comparative literature, the social sciences and anthropology, history, politics and psychoanalysis. ... More

Can a story be told before it has happened?

When the first “Balkan Survey” sidebar was added to the structure of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in November 1994, it was at a difficult time. The war in nearby Bosnia was at its peak, with the siege of Sarajevo having lasted already two and a half years, with no end in sight.

Some horrible things were happening at that distant moment in the former Yugoslav lands. It must have been around that time that Esma, a Muslim woman from Sarajevo, was violated in a camp, alongside many other women, and ended up pregnant with an unwanted child, one that she would chose to bear and then learn to love. Twelve years later, in 2006, this child – Sara, a daughter – would confront Esma in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica, demanding to know more of her origins. And Esma would need to face reality; the lie she maintained for years in order to ensure Sara’s wellbeing had to be dropped in favour of revealing the dreadful truth of her daughter’s origin.

Rapes were still being committed in Bosnia at the time of the first “Balkan Survey”. The men who perished at Srebrenica in 1995 were still alive.
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At a time when the civil war was raging in Yugoslavia and the Balkans were presented to the international community as a hotbed of barbarism, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s director Michel Demopoulos proceeded, in 1994, to establish a section called the “Balkan Survey”, which would be exclusively devoted to films produced in this region. This initiative aimed to showcase the creative cinematic forces of Balkan countries and to seek out bridges of communications through their common cultural roots. At the same time, however, it was an effort to offset the negative representations of the international media regarding the Balkans; to put forward a different way of seeing; and to bring to the fore the discourse and viewpoint of – mostly – native film directors. It was, therefore, a counter-proposal, which would put the Balkans back on the international map under different terms, by linking Balkan cinema to that of the rest of Europe. This move was considered extremely progressive at the time, since there was no such section anywhere on the landscape of international film festivals, and gave the Festival and Thessaloniki the chance to act as a meeting point and a place of communication within the greater region of Southeast Europe.2 Especially in regard to foreign professionals of the world of film (journalists, critics, festival programmers, producers and distributors), the TIFF offered a strong motive for them to attend it and catch up on the latest cinematic developments of the Balkans.

But the Festivals’ emphasis on Balkan cinema also sprung from the interest aroused by being neighbors with the other Balkan countries, combined with the need to overcome the substantial ignorance and, at times, prejudice of the Greek public for Balkan cinemas. With the age-long national disputes between Balkan states and the Cold War having contributed to the lack of a feeling of accord between these neighboring countries, this absence is also reflected in cinema. Each national cinema in the Balkans has developed independently of the other countries, without – up until recently – a real collaboration between them. In Greece, this cinema was, to a large degree, unknown, since most film-goers knew only the films of the most famous among Balkan directors, such as Güney, Makavejev, and Kusturica, since they were the only ones that were ever shown in the movie theaters (the same had applied in the past to commercial Turkish films). But with the emergence of talented young directors and the systematic showcasing of their work, the TIFF contributed decisively to overcoming the pre-existing isolation and the lack of contact which have characterized the cinemas of the Balkans.
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