DOCUMENTOR was established a year ago from the initiative of the filmmakers themselves. What was the context in which it was founded?
We realized that – after fighting together with our colleagues for general reform of the film industry for the last 4-5 years – the interests of the documentary community have become more specific. There was also a point when we felt there was enough interest for documaking and there will be more and more people making documentaries.
How would you describe your role on Romanian as well as international documentary map?
We have been trying to bring together Romanian documakers – between themselves, so that they gain more „weight“ in front of the Film Board (CNC) and TV channels – as well as to provide them access to international funding and networks.
Is your status grounded in the new Film Act?
Not really. We have been individually worked before on proposals for the Film Law, and we have proposed changes in the Law and Regulations. Very few have been adopted by the Film Board.
In June 2008, Documentor opened for the first time an independent Romanian stand. What benefits did you get from this activity?
For our community, it was important to get so many contacts, get the pulse of the international scene. We made ourselves visible, I’m sure there will be pragmatical results in the months to come. And as another direct result: for the first time representatives of the Film Board, the public TV and independent producers were put together in a relaxed, open environment.
Three years ago, Romania passed a new Film Act - by the way, the Czech Republic is among the last East European countries without a similar legal aegis. What does the new Act involve and in what specific ways is it reflected in documentary filmmaking?
The Film Law tries to structure the financing of film projects – by public and private sources – through the selection process of the CNC (National Film Centre). Finally, documentary projects benefit from a separate minimal percentage from the annual CNC budget. Separate criteria and specific documents are required from doc projects (before they were asking for a 90-pages script...) A separate jury judges documentaries.
And by contrast, are there any parts of the Act that you consider problematic?
Plenty. The main issue is that projects are anonymous, its authors are kept secret until the end of the selection. Filmmakers cannot sustain their projects, they cannot present trailers or other visual material, which for docs could be crucial. The public TV is forced to give a certain percentage from their revenues to cinema, but is not involved or motivated in coproducing. Generally, there is no vision in giving film production the economic incentives that could bring sponsorship and foreign investment to high levels. And distribution and exploitation remains the biggest problem – with only 35 cinemas throughout Romania (for 21 million inhabitants).
At the panel you organized at Sunny Side, the representative of the National Centre of Cinematography mentioned the total sum that the state annually allocates to documentary film. This amount is multiple times higher than the film funding provided by Czech state. Are you satisfied with the state subsidies?
For the last session, aprox. 550,000 euros were allocated. First of all, this is not state money: the funds she was mentioning are all coming from taxes imposed upon media companies and advertising. Secondly, as this is the only source documentary makers can attract, it’s not that much money. The state could do more in giving incentives to other economic actors to fund film and creating a joint force with the tv channels.
Along with the new Act, Romania also established the post of commissioning editors that is similar to the system applied by European TV networks. In June this year, you announced at Sunny Side that the system had been cancelled again. How was the situation resolved in the end? What are the implications for Romanian documentary film?
The situation stayed the same. There is no dialogue with the public TV, we lost our only interlocutor and the institution has halted all contracts of coproduction and financing – even for the projects that were underway.
I assume that Documentor's plans for the near future include another Romanian stand at the 2009 Sunny Side of the Doc. Do you plan any other activities?
We do. Some of the SSD additional activities didn’t end yet: we managed to launch a dvd on Romanian projects, and we are developing further our website. Most importantly, we would like to organize a training session next spring, before SSD.
Documentor was founded by documentary filmmakers and other professionals who simultaneously work on their own projects. How do you manage to combine the two?
It’s not easy at all, this is why we’re looking for partners with lesser burden on their heads. Most of the work for SSD was done by Calin Meda, an independent producer from Timisoara. But we still lack the woman/manpower to back and organize our ideas – we’d be glad if any of the people at IDF would like to take a sabbatical in Romania...
Back to the Romanian documentary films. What docs from the recent production would you highlight?
In 2008, Thomas Ciulei premiered his „Flower Bridge“ that received several awards (Go East – Wiesbaden, Cinema du Reel) and was screened theatrically in Romania. „The Flying Shepherd“ by Catalin Musat received a mention in Locarno. HBO Romania is launching at the end of this year its first two Romanian productions (this is really good news for everybody, there is a new potential coproduction partner among private tv channels now!).
Alexandru Solomon [photo], Documentor / Hana Rezková, IDF