OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program
Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past
Alexandru Solomon: "Reconstructing reality from communist archive documents"
My "Great Communist Bank Robbery" is a film about the reconstruction of a real case – a robbery – and how it became propaganda. In 1959 the Romanian State Bank was allegedly robbed by a mysterious band of gangsters, who got away with millions of lei intended for the salaries of hard-working citizens. The police, helped by secret agents, 'discovered' that the robbery had been carried out by a group of high-ranking communists, all holding important posts in government and all, as it happened, Jews. A show-trial followed, and the accused were forced to appear in a filmed 'reconstruction' of the robbery in exchange for promises of reduced sentences. The very same film was then used to provide vital 'evidence' for the prosecution. All but one of the defendants were sentenced to death, and the film was later used at closed party screenings for training purposes. Over forty years later I reconstructed the reconstruction, incorporating interviews with former prisoners, the cameraman of the infamous film, neighbors and secret police agents. Their accounts show that the propaganda film covered up more than it revealed.
In making my documentary, I started from this 1959 film, in itself a highly distorted document. Besides it, the only documents available on the case were the files of the Securitate. In between these unreliable materials I had to find my way and figure out where the truth lies. In my presentation, I will try to describe the challenges of this process. This is just one part: I will then try to analyze how – after so many years – propaganda and faked documents become reality, how they shape the perception of the past and how difficult it is to frame them so that the audience does not take them for granted. But this is not an only an intellectual debate: finally the reconstruction film – along with the Securitate files – was used as criminal evidence. Sometimes, propaganda kills. Working with communist archives involves a great deal of moral responsibility.
Alexandru Solomon graduated from the Theatre and Film Academy in Bucharest in 1991. With his debut as cinematographer in the Look ahead with anger (directed by Nicolae Margineanu, 1993) he won an award at the International Camera Festival. From 1993 he wrote and directed several documentaries while continuing to work as director of photography in fiction films (Everyday God Kisses Us on the Mouth, directed by Sinisa Dragin, 2001; Exam, directed by Titus Muntean, 2003). His own documentaries won various awards in Romania and abroad. Franzela Exilului (The Bread of Exile, 2002) on Caragiale in Berlin won the Special Prize of the Jury, UCIN (The Romanian Filmmakers Union) in 2003. The The Man with a thousand eyes - a film about the life and photographs of Iosif Berman and A Dog's Life - a portrayal of Bucharest as a 'village without dogs' and 'city with dogs' - were received best documentary awards at DaKINO Festival in 2001 and 1998 respectively. The Great Communist Bank Robbery (2004) is his first international co-production.
Date: June 10, Saturday
Time: 5-5.30 pm
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