Sahia Vintage: Ministry of Identity

At the beginning of the 1970s, Romania experienced the passing of the so-called “July Theses” – a speech (by Nicolae Ceaușescu) and set of guidelines which reinforced the role of culture as political and ideological propaganda. Ceaușescu specifically advocated the return to national values and proclaimed his opposition to ‘bowing down’ before everything that was foreign. Thus, a new set of values, which included the national, the past and the notion of tradition, entered Romanian culture and politics, and filtered down in cultural production. During the 1970s and the 1980s, the documentaries produced by the Alexandru Sahia documentary studio, whether routine works meant to fulfil annual film quotas, or more sophisticated productions authored by prestigious film-makers, paraded ‘national’ dances, ‘national’ costumes, and ‘traditional’ values which often conditioned the approval of the films. Revisiting some of these productions is even more urgent today, when national identity seems to have been programmatically reanimated on state policy level and advanced as a proven source of social regeneration.