KINO KOMBAT: What is it? An interview with Alexandru Solomon

Why is the documentary film an important medium for a state where a lot of civic protests and political actions are taking the place? Find out in the interview with the director of One World Romania festival Alexandru Solomon.

The Romanian documentary scene has been strongly growing nowadays. Many of the Romanian documentaries have become the new stars of international film festivals. In the past decades, nearly every village in Romania used to have its own cinema hall. At the first glance it can seem like Romanians are a kind of a "cinefile" nation. But what is the current situation in the field of the local documentary festival scene? And why is the documentary film an important medium for a state where a lot of civic protests and political actions are taking the place? Find out in the interview with the director of One World Romania festival Alexandru Solomon and do not forget to watch the selection of 5 films from this year’s programme online from March 10 to March 17 at for free!

This year’s edition of the festival is known for the title "Kino Kombat". What does this term mean?

Each year we express the focus of the festival’s current edition through a slogan. In Romania, in the past year we have seen a fresh civic commitment expressing itself in the streets, through protests and gatherings, but also through the arts. We are premiering two Romanian films that portray these demonstrations and we are exhibiting the drawings of Dan Perjovschi, one of the most important artists of our time, who reflected and nourished these protests. “Kino Kombat” stands as recognition of our double pledge – to human rights and to documentary cinema, as one of the best tools to promote human rights in a creative way. The Romanian version of this slogan is “Cine-luptă”, meaning cine(matic)-fight, and our central picture for the 7th edition is the camera-weapon. A weapon that is honest, intelligent and non-violent. The documentaries we select and promote are usually committed to a certain cause but they are not politically correct, they are provocative and have multiple layers, because they are also cinematic.

This year’s edition of the festival is linked to the personality of the first Czech president Vaclav Havel. Actually, it is called "In memory of Vaclav Havel". Can you explain deeper the importance of this democratic politician for the ideas and the programme of your festival?

We have dedicated the festival to Vaclav Havel’s memory since his death. But our link to his personality and his ideas goes beyond that, since we are part of the One World family, which was born in Prague and was influenced by Havel. He was a kind of politician, of a committed intellectual and a free artist that is so rare but embodies what we are standing for as a festival: freedom of thought, verticality and the dedication to an open society.

The programme of the festival reflects the period of 25 years after the revolution year of 1989 which has meant a big democratic turn in Eastern Europe. Which topics do you want to emphasize in the film programme?

We have gathered films that speak of the communist dictatorships, their complicated legacy and how we have been dealing with this in our part of the world. As we said in our 7th edition concept, 25 years is a long time but proved to be not long enough to achieve a real separation from this past. The traumas of repression, the victims’ right to justice or ostalgia are the themes of the films we show and which bring stories from Germany, Poland, Albania or Serbia. We have added a program of docs from the Bucharest Sahia Studios, made between 1963 and 1983, and an astonishing theatre show (Typography Uppercase) based on the secret police files of a young dissident. The Marcel Lozinski retrospective adds up to this selection: the older films of the Polish master offer a creative reading of life under dictatorship.

I really like your concept called "Adopt a Documentary". How does it work? Is it your original idea and what is its main goal?

Last year, our team came up with this idea. We have felt constantly that the films we select can be of great help to the NGOs and institutions that are active in different fields of human rights. So we started proposing to these people one or two films that fit their mission. They adopt a documentary, promote it among their constituencies and discuss it after the screenings. Like this, the film becomes a vehicle of public debate and gives to the people a foothold, provides an example or opens a window on the world. For instance, one activist from Bucharest declared he decided to run for municipal elections after watching one of our films in the program (Bogota Change). Our initiative – now in its second year – is growing and this makes us very glad.

How do you perceive the status of documentary film in Romania? Do you follow any progress in public or in the structure of your festival audience?

Yes, there is a constant growth of the audience, not only in numbers but in the quality of the debates after the screenings. Compared to the first years, you can see that people are more prepared to understand documentary forms and means, because they have been exposed year after year to different ways of filmmaking and different topics. But the festival itself is just the peak of our activity: we have been making workshops for teachers and high-school students, we are making yearly workshops for local documentary filmmakers with international experts – so we are trying to address the youngest audience but also the industry. One World Romania is also very active in trying to bring back to the audience its program throughout the year. We organize a 4-week caravan in 10 cities each autumn (the OWR On Tour), we schedule a lot of screenings in different partner venues in Bucharest, we publish each year a selection of 5 films on DVDs. And, last but not least, now we start our second window on the portal – where we show 5 films online, for free, for a week prior to our festival. It’s a great partnership and I’m very grateful for this.

The pleasure is ours, Mr. Solomon! Thank you for your time and answers. And if the selection of 5 films from the programme of your festival is not enough for our international audiences then we are happy to offer them also two of your own films Cold Waves and The Great Communist Robbery online.


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