One of my constant complaints in this review series is that cinema-going culture is restricted to Bucharest and there are very few other cities with decent cinemas (Cluj, Timișoara, Iași). There are malls and multiplexes, of course, and thank God for those, but true to their purpose, they show mostly popcorn fare and have little in common with arthouse cinemas and their cinematic and social experience.
I grew up near Brașov and the city had no less than five cinemas which were shut down one by one in the last decade, just like with the many state-owned cinemas in most Romanian cities. The only possibility to watch a film on a big screen is at the mall. There are venues which host film events every once in a while, like some cafés or the cultural centre Reduta, or most often the main square in summer for open-air events.
Happily, Brașov has been improving its cultural life lately, even if very slowly, and last year in April, Cinemateca Patria/Cinematheque Patria was opened. Located in the city centre, at 50A 15 Noiembrie Boulevard, and in the building of the former biggest, state-owned, cinema of the city, the eponymous “Patria”. With seventy-two seats, a 5×3-meters screen and an HD projector, the hall may not be a 'proper' cinema and sadly also much smaller than the former Patria, but it is still a necessary and laudable initiative to offer local film afficionados a solidly-curated cinema programme in a welcoming venue dedicated strictly to films.
True to its name, the cinematheque shows mainly classics and there are quite a few gems in their schedule, from all-time classics (Fellinis's La dolce vita) to some films you'd be hard pressed to watch on a big screen in most cities, not only in Romania (William Friedkin's The Sorcerer). Patria screens no less than a film per day, with more screenings during the weekends, while Romanian films have a fixed slot on Fridays. The cinematheque is eager to also screen current national productions and invite the filmmakers to discuss their films with the audience. Lately, they hosted De ce eu?/Why Me and the brand-new documentary Aliyah DaDa, both accompanied by a film talk with the filmmakers Tudor and Oana Giurgiu, respectively. The cinema has also expanded its repertoire to series and festivals, such as the Polish Film Days (26-28 March) and the fest on music documentaries, Doc and Roll (15-18 April). You can follow them on Facebook or check their website for news and updates.
Most screenings have been sparingly attended, with some exceptions ('blockbusters' like Grand Hotel Budapest or Why Me? managed that easily) but Patria nevertheless offers a great opportunity to watch the latest national productions and catch up on your classics, all in a collective experience with other film lovers.
Well-done, Brașov, may other cities follow your example in the near future! For the love of cinema and their inhabitants.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]