Writer Svetlana Boym recalls, in The Future of Nostalgia, the fusion of imagination and ideology during her childhood in Soviet Russia: The first thing we learned to draw in kindergarden in Soviet Russia was a rocket. We always drew rockets, always in mid-launch, in a glorious upward movement. We dreamed of going into space before going abroad, of travelling upward, not Westward.
In a Romanian documentary, a man and a girl discuss the paintings displayed at an international exhibition of children’s paintings: - What is this?, asks the man. - A poor peasant, explains the girl. - And this? - A kulak, she responds. - What about this? - Unemployed people from Italy, comes the reply. - Right, but where would the child-painter have seen unemployed people from Italy?, insists the man. - Well, he didn’t, but he imagined it, replies the girl. The film is The Young Ones Talk about the Grown-Up World. The young painter mentioned is Yura, from the Soviet Union: in his dreams, he travels to Mars. Some twenty years later, the pupils from a recently urbanized Romanian village who make it into another film (On the Shore of the Ozana) do not travel anywhere, but look forward to the construction of a railway able to take them elsewhere. Until then, they learn about the “degrees of freedom” of a tractor at the local Agricultural School.
Each film shown in our program of classic Romanian documentaries from the Alexandru Sahia Studio alludes to the idea of an “elsewhere” embedded in the fabric of the “here” and “now”: as Romania went from political and cultural liberalization of the 1960s through the gradual deterioration of the political climate in the 1970s and 1980s, the sense of an “outside” continued to exist in the domestic political imagination and to shape both the films and the real-life decisions taken by the film-makers who, sometimes, decided to leave behind the realities of socialist Romania for a seductive "elsewhere" lurking beyond its borders.
That “elsewhere” was either part of the film’s fabric or it’s distant beneficiary — whether a tourist who had to be lured to try out the new resorts on Romania’s Black Sea Coast (Mamaia), a generic “Western” country deciding whether to import a revolutionary Romanian invention (The Smoke-Wrapping Factory), an extraneous aesthetic model adopted within the body of a domestic documentary (the Brechtian song, in New Technology, Enlightened People), a cinematic genre which had become an aspirational space for a cinephile who is bored to death in rural Romania (the western, in If Only I Were A Cowboy…), or the very notion of open possibility as embodied by trains and train stations — be those real, as The Train Station captured in gorgeous verité in the mid-1960s, when filmmakers could still roam freely with their rolling cameras on the streets of Romania, or just the dreamed-of, yet-to-be-built train station from Targu Neamt, where wishful travelers would have had to make do with their tractors for a (long) while.
New Technology, Enlightened People, Alexandru Sirbu, 1963, 17 min
The Young Ones Talk about the Grown-Up World, Gabriel Barta, 1960, 14 min
The Train Station, Gabriel Barta, 1965, 10 min
The Smoke-Wrapping Factory, Iancu Moscu, 1966, 20 min
If Only I Were A Cowboy…, Iancu Moscu, 1972, 7 min
Mamaia, Slavomir Popovici, 1972, 2 min
Costinesti on the Black Sea Coast: An Encounter with Work Ada Pistiner, 1975, 10 min
On the Shore of the Ozana, Copel Moscu, 1984, 10 min
The documentaries has ben "adopted" by MediaWise Society.