Sunday, October 21, 2012

Exhibition Notes: Stasi Museum, Berlin

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Upon our roaming of the streets near Checkpoint Charlie, we stumbled across a museum dedicated to the many Germans affected by the Stasi in the German Democratic Republic of the 1950s to the late 1980s. Now if you have not yet seen Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others (2006), I suggest you put this on your "priority films to see" list. As I floated past the personal accounts of torture, paranoia and espionage, I could not help but compare them to scenes I had seen in the above mentioned film. I remembered how the main characters suffered from constant stress and obsessed over the idea that they were being watched. Berlin has certainly suffered its share of embarrassing histories, but the mere idea of spying on someone's private meanderings is something I could never comprehend. And it happened not so long ago either. This is only one example of the destruction caused at the hands of the secret police throughout Eastern Europe. Wether it was the German Stasi, the Securitate in Romania or the State Security (StB) in former Czechoslovakia, the function, apparatus and methods of practice were at the same level of absurdity.

The lives of others recorded and shelved. Files of suspected communist dissidents compiled by the Stasi in the GDR. Picture source.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Exhibition Notes: Rafal Milach "7 Rooms" at C/O Berlin

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

During my extended stay in Berlin this year I attended the C/O gallery where I was equally impressed and disturbed by the Larry Clark exhibition. Towards the last room of photographs, I noticed a separate exhibition by a Polish photographer named Rafal Milach. His project "7 Rooms" portrays the lives of seven young Russians from Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk. Alongside the large scale portraits detailing poetic scenery of Eastern European heaviness - carpets of snow and Stalinist iconography - Milach included interview footage of his subjects whom he visited regularly for six years.

Milach captivated me with his photographs, because they spark certain similarities to the socio-political situation that Romania finds itself in and that I have repeatedly argued in my research on Romanian cinema. The idea that Romanian cinema explores Romania's inability of letting go of the past. A sentiment that is mirrored in the C/O exhibition guide: "...Milach portrays the life of a generation caught between the mentality of the old Soviet regime and the ambitious new Russia of the Putin era."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Director's Profile: Paul Negoescu

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Paul Negoescu is a young and talented newcomer with a lot on his plate. Apart from directing a series of shorts, Negoescu has also written and produced the majority of his work. I first became familiar with the director when I saw his film, Acasa/ Home (2007), a 14 minute account detailing a conversation between a taxi driver and his client as he drives him home. They discuss politics regarding the European Union, traffic conditions in Bucharest and the expansion of Romanian beggars in Madrid. The passenger is a constructions engineer who works predominantly abroad and looks forward to returning home during festivities while the taxi driver has dreams of migrating out of Romania to a better life. Without getting too carried away and comparing it to Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth (1991), I have to say there were some similarities in the way that the characters seem to connect on some level (I am referring mainly to the vignettes Los Angeles and Helsinki). It is like that amazing conversation you had with a complete stranger on the train, only to part ways without exchanging contact details. Negoescu presents this feeling of knowing someone without really knowing them and it is executed with warmth against the backdrop of Bucharest, a city with stained with a cold recent history.

The online film journal Eastern European Film Bulletin (EEFB) provides more information on the director including an engaging interview conducted by Konstanty