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“Documentary is the spearhead of cinema”

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Dumitru Budrala • President, Astra Film Festival


- Astra Film Festival’s president, Dumitru Budrala, chatted to Cineuropa about the challenges of organising the gathering and his future plans

Dumitru Budrala  • President, Astra Film Festival

Dumitru Budrala is the founder and president of the Astra Film Festival, which brought its 21st edition to a close on 12 October with Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s Cannes-selected documentary Maidan [+see also:
film profile
winning the top award. Director and photographer Budrala has directed documentaries that have been awarded at several international film festivals. Perhaps the most famous of them is The Curse of the Hedgehog (2004), a title selected at more than 50 film festivals all over the world. The director and festival organiser chatted to Cineuropa about the challenges of organising such a long-established event in Romania, but also about the future of Astra and his next project.

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Cineuropa: The Astra Film Festival has celebrated its 21st edition. How has it changed over the last two decades?
Dumitru Budrala:
The festival’s evolution is of historic dimensions, as the last 20 years have brought global changes in terms of communication, and the documentary genre has become true cinema. From the Romanian point of view, we switched from the socialist system to post-socialist capitalism, which influenced the festival’s appearance and especially its progress.

From the point of view of a documentary-festival organiser, what do you think about the genre’s evolution during the last decade?
It has absolutely soared, and at the moment it is the spearhead of cinema. It is not at all surprising that this year the prestigious British cinema magazine Sight and Sound published a top 100 of the best documentaries of all time.

What do you consider to be Astra 2014’s greatest success?
Among the many magic moments I could single out one: the increase in the Astra Film Junior audience, which exceeded 10,000 children this year. Aside from this amazing figure, you can imagine the incredible cultural movement that took over Sibiu for five days, with schoolchildren attending the special screenings for pupils aged between six and 18 years old, both from Sibiu and from the surrounding towns and villages. Seeing the joy on the faces of the enthusiastic children who filled the five screening halls was an indescribable experience.

It’s never too early to think about the next edition: what would you change for Astra 2015?
We’ve been waiting 20 years for the authorities to open proper cinemas. Maybe in 2015, this dream will finally come true, and we will no longer need to bring six trucks full of equipment in order to turn concert halls and festivity venues into improvised screening halls.

If you could recommend one single documentary from this edition, which would it be?
At Berkeley
, Frederick Wiseman's newest doc, because of the power and ability of Wiseman's cinematic eye to penetrate, explore and understand the world around us – and thanks to his way of using cinematic language.

At the most recent project contest organised by the Romanian National Film Center, you won a grant for a new documentary, The Song of the Knife. What is it about?
It is a project in development and revolves around a tragedy that took place in a Romanian village. The events astonished me because the people’s acts proved so incredibly short-sighted, as if all their normal principles of judgement regarding life and death had vanished into thin air. The villagers were driven exclusively by the collective mental state of their community.



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