VINTAGE SAHIA I: Of Lives and Lessons
THE VINTAGE SAHIA PROJECT
VINTAGE SAHIA is the archival strand of One World Romania, part of a long-term digitisation and outreach project designed to make heritage audio-visual material accessible to contemporary scholars and audiences.
Since 2013, the festival has included each year one curated programme of non-fiction produced at the “Alexandru Sahia” Studio (communist Romania’s only documentary film studio). From 2014, we produced the VINTAGE SAHIA DVD series, which consists of five broadly-themed DVDs ranging from work, to childhood, to the political commissioning of documentaries, and including a special issue dedicated to the so-called “ephemeral cinema” produced by the studio – films commissioned by various state institutions such as ministries, plants and factories. In 2016, we started taking some of these films into the high schools and neighbourhoods of Bucharest, where we screened them with introductory presentations and follow-up conversations.
Having been produced on film stock, and later transferred and circulated on VHS tapes and DVDs, these films are about to enter a new stage in their lifetime. By the end of 2019, the VINTAGE SAHIA project will be relocated to an online platform, which will make some of these films more widely accessible and will serve as the central hub for future digitisation and outreach programmes.
In 2018 the project was awarded by the Romanian Cultural Fund Administration with the "Prize for Best Promoting Romanian Culture in the World". The VINTAGE SAHIA strand is curated by Adina Brădeanu.
VINTAGE SAHIA AT OWR 12
In 2019, as we celebrate thirty years from the collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, our impulse to re-evaluate our relationship with the communist, and the more recent, post-communist past feels increasingly stringent. We therefore look to the past with two programmes designed to inspire us to connect the history of the Sahia documentary with the history of Romania, and to reflect on the political commitments and the aesthetic possibilities associated with domestic documentary production throughout several decades of national history.
In December 1989, the documentary film-makers who took to the streets with their cameras had to adapt on the go to the new rhythms of a world that was rewriting itself in front of their eyes. Hard-pressed by history, they found time, now and again, to reflect on the changing times, and on the challenges and blessings brought by those changes. Watching the cinematic imprints of those moments of reflection in this year’s programme allows us to recap on, and rethink, some of the issues raised by these film-makers as they rushed with their cameras through history, to record, educate, agitate, or share their hopes for a better future.
The film-makers from Sahia worked under an ideological mandate. Their films were inextricably intertwined with politics. As they fulfilled their mission, they were labelled ‘regime propagandists’ – a poor reputation that impacted documentary practice in Romania in the long term. Revisiting their work today, we strive to understand whether they ever internalized that label and, if so, how and when they managed to distance themselves from it.