– I was present at the TIFF Festival in Cluj with a documentary film: “The Borders of Death”. Is anyone still interested in this type of movie in a world full of news in print media, television and the internet?
– As we saw in the two shows in Cluj, it seems that yes, there are a lot of people interested in documentaries. Frankly, it was also a pleasant surprise to see the hall full of people, while in the city, at exactly the same time, there were other shows, with European feature films … And it was even more surprising when I saw that in addition to Romanian and foreign intellectuals, there were many young people Those who watch my movie, most of them are up to 30 years old. I watched them out of the corner of my eye standing motionless, horrified, in a way, by all those harrowing stories in the movie. To them, they were stories from a page of history they knew nothing of. That’s why, in the question-and-answer session at the end of the movie, they didn’t spare me at all, they wanted to find out from me everything they could about this dark chapter of our past. Finally, a 23-year-old girl came up to me and thanked me for opening her eyes to a past she knew nothing of. So the news and the internet are far from competing with this kind of documentaries.
“An Open Lesson for Today’s Youth”
What is the story of your documentary and who is it for? Does she have a private message?
– “The Border of Death” is a film testimony about the phenomenon of illegal border crossing in the era of Ceausescu. These are the stories of people who chose to flee the country, risking their lives for freedom, in an age of fear, lies and terror. People were arrested, beaten, humiliated, and tortured for terribly daring to commit what communists called a “crime against the state.” I thought of my film as an open lesson to today’s youth, for whom freedom is a trivial concept that says nothing more. They can travel around Europe today without any problems, and it is almost impossible for them to understand that there was a dark period in our recent history when only daring to dream of leaving for the West was severely punished. Next, an important chapter of the documentary is the harrowing story of the border guards who were found dead, shot, or drowned on the Serbian bank of the Danube, which the Romanian authorities refused to admit. This is how hundreds of Romanians are buried in village cemeteries in Serbia. No work, no candle, just a cross in the head. I filmed there, there are hallucinatory images and testimonies of local residents.
In the end, the bottom line is that not all of this black sheet of history should be erased from the collective memory. As is well known, forgetfulness can lead to the repetition of mistakes, especially in an increasingly fragile world and in increasingly turbulent times, such as today.
“People are tired of too much noise. It goes back to the simple things”
Do you think anyone is still interested in the pain of the communist years? The world is advancing at an amazing speed…
– Yes, I think he’s still interested. I think it has reached saturation, people are tired of a lot of “noise”, so they are there and fast hollow. People return to the simple things and begin to search for the depths and truths of things that are less obvious. This suffering still traces back to the parents of many of those between the ages of 35 and 40 to this day. Such a girl, whose parents fled to Germany in 87, came to me after a show, to tell me that my film helps her a lot in explaining to her friends why she grew up with her grandparents. She knew nothing of her parents for three and a half years, during which time they were in Western refugee camps, waiting for a Western country to grant them residency status.
I think if I opened a webpage about the movie, there would be thousands of testimonials from these frontiersmen that I couldn’t find. According to data provided by the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office after the revolution, nearly 50,000 attempts to cross the border were recorded in 1989 alone. Think about it, if that’s a year number one and we sum all the years between 1948 and 1989 together, what numbers are we talking about?! As for the number of dead and missing, it was clear that such a thing would never be known. In addition, if we look at the more than 31 years since the fall of the communist regime, we see that none of the atrocities that occurred at that time were officially recognized by the Roman state, just as the victims of these atrocities were not rehabilitated. . , border guards at the time are still stigmatized today in the same humiliating status as former common-law convicts.
When I turned my head, the cinema was full.
How was your film received at TIFF? Did you like the atmosphere of the festival? But Cluj, the most praised city lately?
– I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the presence of Irina Margherita Nestor, who spoke very kindly about my film, at the end of the show on the first night. I was also honored by the presence of foreign moviegoers at TIFF, who were excited to see The Borders of Death and who waited for me when I left the cinema to congratulate me. I sat in the front row, and at the end of the movie, I turned my head in fear, thinking that perhaps there were no more spectators in the hall. I was deeply moved by their reactions, what can I say, it was clear evidence that I did the right thing with this movie.
Cluj is a wonderful city. I never get tired of sipping on the street spreads around the festival. Even the taste of the food was different, among the many languages spoken at the meals. And my joy filled the morning before my departure, when I was invited to a radio station to talk about the film. From there, from above, from the twelfth floor, where the studio was and from where you can almost see Cluj through the huge windows, I felt like I was speaking directly to the city, how can I say…?!, that they included it and – I would like to thank him For all the joy he brought me by inviting him to TIFF, for the 20th Anniversary Edition.
“Reportage is now a wandering king, the feeling of loneliness and isolation grows”
– Cătălin, people know you as a writer. Once you get there, your main occupation is a TVR reporter, a type of journalism that has kind of died out. why?
“I don’t even consider myself a writer.” I’m just a journalist, reporter. And my profession, that of a journalist and that of a director, reconcile as much as possible. And I think I’ve said it before: In my first feature film, Humility, my journalistic experience helped me a lot in writing the script. In Frontiers of Death, this interweaving of professions is even more evident, given that documentary is essentially a genre of journalistic literature.
– What do you think is the purpose of today’s report? Is he still the “king of journalism”? Is there still a torrent of information on the Internet?
– Oh! This is a very painful subject unfortunately, the report is now a roaming king, growing increasingly isolated and lonely. From our press, more and more occupied with the politician and the stars of the day, the story, the emotion, the life is almost completely lost. Anything that can enlighten our minds and comfort our souls. This can only be done by the reporter. Most Romanian press owners do not give credit to this journalistic style for long. On the contrary, it would confuse their interests. This is because a good report cannot compete with the advantages of a suspension that plays with the desired direction. Whoever says that people no longer want to read or watch the reports is getting over her crap. Concrete proof is the large number of readers of the pages of the Formula AS report. People yearn to see and understand what is in the depths of things, to discover characters, heroes and destinies. They are tired of epidemic numbers, stupid quarrels between different camps, slums on the Internet.
– What are you currently working on? What do you dream of?
– While in Cluj, as if I wasn’t spoiled enough already, I received news from my producer that I had won funding from CNC, for a new film project, which I called “Villages Are Dying”. This is where I am looking forward to now, towards the Roman Village, where I will be doing some research and digging for my next documentary. But even then, I still have to go to several festivals, where the “Border of Death” was chosen.