Archive for June, 2010

12 is a remake of the classical 12 Angry Men – Sidney Lumet’s ultimate jury drama. What makes Nikita Mikhalkov, a director who never lacked original ideas or Russian scripts take the court drama located in the US of the 5os just out of the McCarthy period era and transplant it with all its 12 characters, with very similar premises and very predictable (at least up to some point) end into the reality of today’s Russia?


I believe that the intent is explicit and declarative. Russia undergoes now a similar process of transition as the USA in the 50s, and the end is still uncertain. The laws may be already written in the books of laws, the jury system is called in theory to allow for fair trials in which the accused is presumed innocent until l proven guilty, but laws are implemented by humans and humans have limitations and prejudices and they are in a hurry to give a verdict and get back to their lives. As in Lumet’s film, it is more the human beings than the system that ensure that justice is eventually done. The responsibility of every man to stand up and express his doubts despite the overwhelming opinion of the other, the right of the minority in a democratic system to have its say despite the apparent rightfulness of the majority are key elements in the Russian film as well as in the original American one,

(video source ErlandJosephson)

And yet at the same time Mikhalkov’s film is very Russian. The mix of characters represents various sectors of today’s Russian society and the acting is without exception splendid. National tensions and antisemitism are still part of the landscape, and so are the cultural and even the language sequels of the Communist period. The jurors, all men (why?) address each other inertially with the denomination ‘comrades’. Each has the opportunity to tell his story, and the stories describe the background of their personalities, and the motivation of their decision to eventually absolve the innocent. it is however the surprise ending that adds a new dimension to the film. The Chechen youngster wrongly accused of killing his Russian stepfather is acquitted. However, his acquittal may mean just a suspension of a death penalty in the hands of the mafia who are the real responsible of the murder. It takes a rather melodramatic ending to solve this problem, and this interesting addition to the original American story is both unconvincing as story flow  but quite eyes-opening. Although the court drama is for almost the whole duration of the film confined inside the walls of the same room it tells a lot about the Russian realities at large.

If there ever will be an Oscar for the best science-fiction idea to be turned into a political film ‘District 9′ is a certain candidate. It takes the theme of the third degree encounter, but reverses the relation between the human and the alien races into a very unexpected manner. The aliens arrive indeed in their gigantic ships, but their place of levitation is neither a coned mountain not the lawn of the White House, but the slums of Johannesburg. Neither do the Aliens look like ethereal blue-men, nor like naughty gremlins, but they are rather a frightened and disoriented crowd which looks in shape as disgusting prawns, who do not seem to enjoy often showers either. Placing them in the slums that South Africa is very familiar with looks like the right thing to do, and nobody is surprised when racial riots break up between the ‘superior’ humans and the new ‘inferior’ race visitors. True, the ‘prawns’ as they are called do have the military technology you would guess, but it’s only some kind of teenager nerd of theirs that holds the secret of saving the oppressed race.


Released in the same year as Avatar, District 9 carries a similar message of intergalactic tolerance pleading for the need for dialog between cultures, for mutual respect despite differences in language and behavior. It probably cost only a few percents of the hundreds of millions Cameron could invest in his blockbuster. However, after putting aside the outstanding visuals of Avatar, District 9 is a much better film.

(video source hollywoodstreams)

Talking about visuals, I liked the atmosphere that first time director Neill Blomkamp  created for the slums. The pseudo-documentary style fits well the story logic, and the use of TV news allows for action to be re-created with an air of authenticity, enhanced by the propagandist media speak coming from the comments. Actor Sharlto Copley is perfect in the role of the inept bureaucrat Van De Merwe put in charge with moving the aliens to a new relocation camp, and plays well the coming back towards humanity of his spirit in parallel with the metamorphosis to alien his body is going through. Overall this film is a good surprise in the genre coming from an unexpected cinematographic territory.

I love to visit art museums. Big ones and small ones. Famous and anonymous. In the big metropolis of the world or in remote places. Visiting an art museum (at least 0ne) is an almost mandatory part of a trip, of my exploration of a new place. When I am in a lesser known museum I look for the local artists, I try to learn as much as I can about the history of the institution, and about the role of art in the life of the place.

The National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta is located not far from the gate of the city, in a beautiful baroque palace located on South Street. It is one of the oldest mansions of the city, built in 1571. During the years of the British rule it hosted the Admiralty House and Winston Churchill is said to have been its guest.  It became home of the most important art institution in Malta in 1974.

(video by PhoeniciaHotel)

The Museum of Valletta was founded in 1903, and its fine arts section became the National Museum of Fine Arts and moved in the location on South Street in 1974. It was the dream and deed Vincenzo Bonello who built the collection and led the fine arts section for much of the century. Unfortunately he did not live to see it in the beautiful home today. A short film about the man and the museum he created is available on YouTube.

inside the museum

The collection of the museum is strong in works that are inspired by Caravaggio, although no work of the master who spent two years in Malta (1607 to 1609) can be found here. We can however see works of Guido Reni or Mattia Preti -  the latest with an impressive gathering of Bible inspired art which can be seen at

Maltese Prie-Dieu

Before getting to the paintings that seemed to be more interesting although out of the beaten path here is a beautiful piece of religious furniture from the 17th century, called a ‘prie-Dieu’ – you can imagine the knight or the noble man or lady kneeling in prayer and keeping his Bible (and maybe other artifacts) in its drawers.

the crystal sword

Two beautiful pieces of arms that could never be used in war are exposed at the first floor of the museum, near the superb spiral staircase. These are a sword and a dagger made of crystal, with exquisite ornaments that were a present by king Philip the 5th of Spain to the Knights of St. John, in sign of the special relation of friendship and protection between the kingdom of Spain and the island of the knights.

Le Valentin - Judith and Holofornes

One of the most caravaggian works in the museum belongs to Valentin de Boulogne (Le Valentin) is ‘Judith and Holofornes’ which matches the painting of Caravaggio which I had seen in Rome a few days earlier at the retrospective at Quirinale.

Jusepe de Ribera - St. Francis of Paola

Jusepe de Ribera also known as Lo Spagnoletto is also considered a disciple of Caravaggio. I like his style sometimes called ‘Tenebrist’ and works who seem to me to be a balancing act between the darkness of the Inquisition-haunted Spain he came from and the ideals of Renaissance of the Italy he lived and created much of his life. The portrait of St. Francis of Paola that can be found in the museum in Valletta is fascinating.

Venetian School - Flowers in a Vase

I am no big fan of floral arrangements paintings, but this painting from a 18th century Venetian school master drew my attention.

Louis Ducros - View of the Great Harbor

Local landscapes take a deserved place in the collection. Above is a painting of the Great Harbour of Valletta as painted by the Swiss Louis Ducros at the beginning of the 20th century.

Eugenio Maccagnani - Leah

Out of the more recent collection of art here is a piece by Italian sculptor Eugenio Maccagnani from the beginning of the 20th century.

Exista un risc in a revedea dupa 40 de ani un film care ti-a ramas in memorie ca o capodopera. Pentru mine si multi dintre cei din generatia mea ‘Reconstituirea’ a fost nu numai cel mai bun film romanesc al tuturor timpurilor, dar si un protest cinematografic unic al anilor firavului dezghet politic din Romania sfarsitului anilor 60 si un film de cult. Am fost printre putinii si inspiratii spectatori care au apucat sa vada filmul in cele cateva saptamani ale proiectarii sale la cinematograful ‘Luceafarul’ din Bucuresti, inainte ca cenzura sa-l confiste si sa-l ingroape in sertare vreme de doua decenii. Il percepusem atunci ca pe un film al generatiei mele, iar eroii sai abia iesiti din adolescenta spre un viitor confuz capatasera in timp dimensiuni de mit si destine paralele cu cele ale eroilor lui Easy Rider, film pe care aveam sa-l vad mult mai tarziu, dupa ce iesisem la libertate, dar despre care ne povestea Cornel Chiriac la microfonul Europei Libere. Dupa trecerea deceniilor si vizionarea ambelor filme aveam sa realizez ca paralela pe care o intuiam nu era gresita. Iesite pe ecrane in acelasi an, 1969, Reconstituirea si Easy Rider au avut destine complet diferite. Ele au fost insa fiecare reprezentative pentru tinerii acelor generatii si pentru destinele lor. Eroii jucati de Hopper si Peter Fonda ar fi putut fi eroii jucati de Gaitan si Mihaita daca s-ar fi nascut intr-o alta constelatie, in Romania.

(video source McGuywer)

Sansa face ca adolescentul care eram atunci sa fi citit nuvela care se afla la originea Reconstituirii pe pagina a opta a revistei ‘Luceafarul’ cu vreo doi ani inainte de aparitia filmului.  Un foarte interesant interviu al scenaristului Horia Patrascu aduce informatii despre geneza filmului, despre receptarea sa de catre spectatori si autoritati si despre diferitii regizori care nu s-au incumentat sa faca acest film pana cand el a ajuns in mainile lui Lucian Pintile.  Sunt confirmate multe dintre cele pe care atunci poate doar le ghiceam sau intuiam. Dupa parerea mea filmul lui Pintilie capata la revizionare multe alte noi dimensiuni, are o prospetime si o profunzime care il fac sa stea la loc de cinste alaturi de creatiile unui Wajda, Polanski, Szabo sau Forman din aceeasi perioada. Cu un singur film, vai, foarte putin cunoscut in lume, Pintilie punea cinematografia romana a anilor 60 cel putin calitativ pe acelasi plan cu scoli intregi ale cinematografiei est-europeene.

(video source kalberto16)

Nu am gasit in cele citite de mine pana acum nicio referire la cealalta Reconstituire – infamul film al lui Virgil Calotescu, facut la comanda Securitatii in 1960 pentru a reconstitui jaful bancii nationale, caruia Alexandru Solomon i-a dedicat Marele Jaf Comunist. Si totusi mi se pare imposibila coincidenta, nu numai in nume ci si in tema, caci filmul lui Pintilie contine acelasi gen de film in film, aceeasi tema a reconstituirii fortate a unor fapte incriminate de sistem, a deformarii realitatii in scopul propagandei. Aceasta dimensiune a creatiei in conditiile lipsei de libertate si critica implicita dar acerba a irealismului socialist, a artei pusa in slujba minciunii este unul dintre noile aspecte care devin vizibile la revedere. Doar ca in timp ce filmul lui Calotescu era o jalnica producta propagandistica facuta la comanda, Pintilie are curajul sa spuna in filmul sau adevarul. Filmul lui Pintilie ‘de fictiune’ este filmul adevarat, cel al lui Calotescu este facatura ‘educativa’ filmata in teama cu pistolul la tampla. Satira groasa a sistemului gaunos lipsit de adevar si a actorilor sai traindu-si dramele reale sau meschine in spatele miticismului si al vorbelor fara fond pare sa capete mai multa profunzime si in perpectiva filmului mai tarziu al lui Pintilie De ce trag clopotele, Mitica. Minunata combinatie a trei generatii de actori de la dureros de tinerii pe atunci Gaitan, Mihaita si Ileana Popovici, cu George Constantin intr-un rol care pare sa includa in el esenta regimului comunist si a sujbasilor sai si cu Emil Botta intr-unul din cele mai tragice roluri ale carierei sale si ale cinematografiei romane continua sa produca acelasi efect spectatorilor ca si in ziua inexistentei premiere a filmului. Atentia la detaliu, stilul firesc si uman in care Pintilie isi dirijeaza actorii si in care aduce pe ecran dialogurile si situatiile imaginate de scenarist fac din acest film un document unic si o descriere sincera si adevarata a epocii. In cele 100 de minute ale sale Reconstituirea lui Pintilie contine premizele a tot ceea ce generatiile de cineasti nascuti multi dintre ei dupa realizarea acestui film vor reincepe sa construiasca trei decenii mai tarziu, atunci cand cinematografia romana va iesi la lumina.

The European culture channel ARTE has recently dedicated a number of segments to the American saxophonist David Murray, one of the most interesting and spectacular artists of this instrument today. The cycle started with the documentary David Murray: I’m a jazzman written by Jacques Denis and Jacques Goldstein, and directed by Goldstein. It continued with two concerts of Murray recorded in the recent years – the first with Cassandra Wilson and  the Black Saint Quartet at the Jazz a Vienne Festival and the second with the Gwo-Ka Masters group of percussionists from Guadeloupe.

(video source zhanges5)

Goldstein’s film is based on an extended interview-confession with the artist. It is of course by listening to the music that we do understand best a musician. Yet I wish we can hear more such testimonies from artists speaking about their lives, their influences, and the way they relate to their art. Listening to Murray we have the opportunity to know the man and the biography and understand better where his music is coming from. We meet a man who is sincere and true in what he does, who explores not only musical territories but also his own self. We meet an artist who tries to make music that is representative to his times and reflects the influences of the world around as well as his personal background.

(video source shankiniteasy)

Born in Auckland California, Murray was influenced by a combination of tradition and social revolution. He attended church, and a precious film fragment from his personal archives shows him accompanying a group of women singing gospels in church, but at the same time his father was close to the Black Panthers movement and their protest ideas. When he took the trip in New York, mandatory to almost any American jazz artist, it was at the time of the pick of the Loft Jazz trend, and his principal influences became Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler. He borrowed the style of the later, and the long circular breathing phrases became a print of his own personal style. After more than two decades of activity in New York, Murray took a trip to Europe about which he speaks largely in the film. It is here that he has the time to reflect on his own origins and discovers the need to go back to the roots of the African music. The story of his meeting with the work and biography of the Russian poet Pushkin who also had African ascendancy in his blood is interesting by itself, as is the music he composed on this occasion.

Best words about David Murray in this documentary are being said by jazz journalist Stanley Crouch. He describes Murray as one of these artists who are capable to combine in their music the flame of passion of the primitives with the relaxation of the sophisticated instrumentalists who master their means. The documentary is an open invitation to cross the gate of knowing better the man and his art.

Ghost writers, like the hero of the Polanski‘s film wonderfully acted by Ewan McGregor are people with no past, no family, no ambitions, and no identity – sometimes they even do not have a name, or if they have one nobody knows it. They often write the books signed by the important men and women of this world, they give shape to their ideas and memories, and sometimes they learn more about the powerful of the world then they should. This is when they can get into trouble or even in mortal danger. It’s easy, as they have no past, no family, no ambitions, no identity, and sometimes no name.

source -

With these premises The Ghost Writer plays as a political thriller located in Hitchcock territory. Into some other director’s hands the story could have been easily over-politicized as the ex-British Prime Minister Lang (Pierce Brosnan) is a very transparent replica of Tony Blair, with a pitch of romance maybe as wife Ruth Lang is acted with such sensitivity and mystery by Olivia Williams that she could become the turning point of the drama. Polanski does however something more here beyond creating the most hitchcockian atmosphere in a movie since Hitchcock passed away – he inserts in the film his personal dramas and fears. The ex-Prime Minister is not only a vilified politician in danger to be indicted by the Hague Tribunal, he is also an exile who cannot return to his own country as Polanski is for many years (and no judgment is being made or excuse presented about him being guilty or not). The fascination of Polanski with water is also present, and we can follow and remember the evolution of the theme in the director’s imaginary, from the sunny reflections in Knife in the Water through the grotesque tones in Cul de Sac or Pirates until the dark tones here – water is always a threat, a menacing presence. The scenes on winterly Martha’s Vineyard island are nothing less than memorable, you can feel the wind and the loneliness crossing the screen.

(video source hollywoodstreams)

Not everything is perfect, and one can dispute whether the resolution of the plot is a little bit too smart, or whether the final scene is a little too cinematographically beautiful to be true. Maybe so – yet this is one of the best political thrillers I have seen, just because it never puts too much pressure neither on the political, not on the thriller aspects, but on human feelings and on the fragility of the character of the Ghost. Well acted and beautifully filmed, it shows the hand of a director at the pick of his creative maturity. Putting aside the controversy related to his personal life and situation, as a film fan I really hope that this is not his last movie.

It is not every day that you get on a tour and the name of the tour guide is Karl. And certainly it is not every time that you hear that the name of Karl was given in sign of respect to no other but the Playboy King Charles (Carol) the 2nd of Romania. Well, king Carol was not exactly the savior of Jews that guide Karl thinks he was (the good deeds he was told about happened during the reign of his son Mihai and belonged actually to Queen Mother Elena, Carol’s divorcee) but it was a good story to start with the tour of the Tel Aviv’s historical central street, the Rothschild Boulevard. Many other stories followed, stories about the buildings, but especially about the people, the very special people who built and lived in this city.

start of the Rothschild Boulevard

The tour (paid for by my employer as art of the Cultural activities of the company) started at the West end extremity of the Rothschild boulevard, at the intersection with the Hertzl street, the very place at the crossroads where Tel Aviv started 101 years ago. It was actually The Crossroad, as the whole city of 294 inhabitants had only these two streets in the first years of its existence. There is little left today but memory of the beginnings, and a kiosk, the first of the series of many that are seeded on the green space that separates the two traffic lanes of the boulevard, and give a special look and style to the boulevard. Those were however built many decades after the city was founded. The French Institute is located today at the same intersection.

the Vogel House

Three ages of building, three different styles marked the first 30 years of the history of the city and of the Rothschild Boulevard. First came the Russians, and their building style is a witness to the slow adaptation of the immigrants coming to Turkish Palestine during the first alyot (waves of immigration). See the house of the Vogel family, close to the end of the street. Balconies, cellars, thick walls made of thermo-isolating bricks, were adapted better to protect the interior from the frozen Russian winter then from the torrid Middle Eastern summer. While the lower level is somehow functional hosting a music club, the upper store and the whole building waits for a renovation to help it survive the years to come.

in front of the Dizengoff House

Our next stop was at the house built by the legendary mayor of the city – Meir Dizengoff. The house became the first art museum of the city while Dizengoff was still alive, and here were hosted the first acquisitions of the fine collection which is time was to become the collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The building is however most famous for having hosted one of the crucial events of the modern history of Israel – the proclamation of the independence by David Ben Gurion on 15th of May 1948. It was a good opportunity for Karl to tell us a few more stories related to the historic event and more important or less important people who were involved in it.

the mayor Meir

Mayors nowadays ride Volvos, or maybe bicycles if they are of the modest kind. Meir Dizengoff used to ride a horse and a statue on the boulevard in front of his house remembers the times and the man.

the changing skyline

The landscape of the area is definitely changing at fast pace. While some of the older buildings enter renovation programs every space between the historical buildings and all the spaces behind them seem to have become construction sites. Skyscrapers are either ready, or in construction, or in planning. All big banks and insurance companies seem to build their headquarters here, if they are not already present on location. How much of the old city atmosphere will be preserved? Hard to say – what is sure is that in a few years this area will look completely different and what we saw during this June 2010 evening may be a snapshot of a fast changing reality.

the Shertok (Elyahu Golomb) House

The second style of building that left its print on the face of Tel Aviv and of its most significant street was the Polish style. It was during the 20th that the population of the city grew tenfold, while most of the immigrants came from Poland, rejected by the growing antisemitism and by the fiscal policies of the Polish government. Representative for the Polish style is the house known today as Beit Elyahu, hosting today the Haganah Museum with a special section dedicated to the founder of Haganah Elyahu Golomb. Actually the house belonged initially to the Shertok family, which later will give in Moshe Sharet the second Prime Minister of Israel. The two families were by the way related.

recovering the past

Many of the old buildings are in renovation, some other wait for the initiatives to recover and bring them back to the commercial and touristic circuit. One example of a project under way is the ‘eclectic’ building at the intersection of the boulevard with the Yavneh street, with its combination of Oriental arcades and Russian monastery dome.

the Levine House

The Levine House, also known by locals as the Russian Embassy is one example of such a project that was completed a few years ago. It really hosted the first embassy of the USSR in Israel at the start of the 50s, but later the house fell in neglect to be recuperated in the last decade and acquired and used until recently by Sotheby’s for auctions and exhibitions.

Bauhaus in Tel Aviv

Night had already fallen when we got to the area on the Rothschild boulevard which is dominated by the Bauhaus style of construction, the third classical style of the city and of the street, brought to Tel Aviv by the German Jews immigration wave of the 30s. Tel Aviv is one of the cities with the highest concentration of Bauhaus buildings worldwide and this area is the most representative. I respectfully disagree with the aesthetic opinion of Karl, our guide who considers the style as ‘ugly’ – I find it to be well fit to the dimensions and functionality of the Middle-Eastern cities, and something that is practical and functional cannot be too ugly.

the Pagoda-House

What Karl does like and I do not disagree with him here is the eclectic style, and the tour ended a little bit aside the Rothschild boulevard, in the King Albert Square, where at the intersection of the Nahmani and Montefiore streets we can admire the Pagoda House. A combination of the Western and Oriental styles, the Pagoda House belongs nowadays to a mysterious Swedish millionaire and cannot be visited. It was built by a French architect named Alexander Levy who perished in the Holocaust.

nightlife on the Rothschild Boulevard

The night had fallen on the city during our tour, and the area became more and more populated. It is today one of the principal areas of entertainment in Tel Aviv, the city which represents better than any other city the Israeli culture and spirit, the tolerance and liberalism that was aimed to by the founders of the nation. While driving home we reached the other end of the Rothschild Boulevard, the location where soon the Habima theater will reopen after years of renovation work. The street and the area look different than the small pioneering street where the city started 101 years ago, but it certainly continues to stay in the center of the development and life of the new metropolis.

The last concert of the current Hot Jazz season at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art auditorium was marketed as a Cuban jazz event which is misleading to say the least. This labeling was quite misleading, maybe intentionally trying to bring to this (optional) concert in the series an audience that is not usually part of the regular audiences, but taking into account the number of empty seats Friday night I am wondering if the tactics really worked. Maybe it would have been better to present the Rodriguez brothers as what they really are, a pair of young and solid jazz instrumentalists, with passion and talent. Yes, they happen to be of Cuban origin on the side of their father who was born in Guantanamo, Cuba of all places, but their mother is from Ecuador, and they refer to themselves jokingly as ‘Cubadorians’, but they are both born, raised, and educated in the USA, and the Cuban flavor is only one and not necessarily the most important influence on the sound of their music.


If there was an obvious Latin component in the sound of the Friday night concert it came from percussionist Gilad Dobretzky, whose variations and improvisations alone or in dialog with drummer Shai Zelman were all full of color and joy. Otherwise about half of the program included original compositions of the two brothers, very much under the shade and influence of great American song writers and musicians like Thelonious Monk or Dizzy Gillespie, to whom the other songs in the programs belonged. Just one song was a popular melody of Cuban origin. Overall it was not a bad evening, Mike Rodriguez is a good trumpet player, his brother Robert is an even better piano player, and we enjoyed a good jazz performance, maybe lacking sparks and passion, but this was certainly not one of the weakest in an uneven season at ‘Hot Jazz’. By the way the program of the next season seems very diverse  and promising, and I have already renewed our subscription taking the maximal option of eight concerts.

More about the Rodriguez brothers, biographies, and music can be found on their Web site –

A vizitat Israelul in aceasta saptamana Radu Ioanid – directorul arhivelor Muzeului Holocaustului din Washington, DC (titlul in engleza este Director International Archival Program Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies) si autorul cartii ‘Rascumpararea evreilor’ (The Ransom of the Jews). Din pacate intalnirea de la ICR – Tel Aviv a avut loc in timpul saptamanii mele de lucru si nu am putut ajuge la ea. Dat fiind ca vizita lui Ioanid este mentionata pe liste de discutii internetice, reiau aici notele mele de lectura dupa citirea cartii in 2006.

Multumiri Sabinei Felix, pentru recuperarea textului din arhivele Prieteniei.


Am vizitat Muzeul Holocaustului din Washington, DC acum exact un an,
in zilelel cand muzeul implinea zece ani de la deschidere. Vizitele in
aceste lacasuri ale memoriei teribilului sunt intotdeauna extrem de
greu de trait emotional pentru mine, ca si pentru multi dintre cei
care apartin primei generatii de supravietuitori ai Holocaustului.
Muzeul din Washington mi s-a parut a avea o detasare, poate datorita
distantei si un monumentalism, poate datorita locului (situat printre
Muzeele Smithsonian, si zona edificiilor strivitoare ale puterii
federale americane) care este strain altor locuri similare in Europa
si Israel. Si totusi poate tocmai detasarea si monumentalismul sunt un
ambalaj care da mai multa veridicitate si credibilitate istorica
ororilor care se pot povesti si documenta, dar nu se pot intelege.

Am mentionat acest fapt pentru ca Radu Ioanid, autorul cartii ‘The
Ransom of the Jews – The Story of the Extraordinary Secret Bargain
between Romania and Israel’ publicata in engleza de Ivan D. Ree este
directorul arhivelor acestui muzeu. Faptul este mentionat pe coperta,
si aceasta impreuna cu prefatarea si postfatarea cartii de catre Elie
Wiesel si Ion Pacepa, dau cartii o greutate dincolo de semnificatia
pur documentara.

‘The Ransom of the Jews’ se citeste extrem de usor, cred ca va fi greu
de lasat din mana chiar si de cei care nu sunt atat de apropriati de
evenimentele si perioada descrisa in carte. Subiectul principal -
acordurile incheiate inre Israel si Romania pentru a permite emigrarea
evreilor romani spre Israel – este incadrat si pus in perspectiva
istorica a politicii romanesti fata de evrei dinainte si din timpul
celui de-al doilea razboi mondial si aceste capitole pe cat de
succinte sunt bine scrise si par excelent documentate.

Documentar am aflat o seama de lucruri noi. De exemplu, ca acest gen
de acorduri era practicat de Romania comunista de inceputul anilor 50,
ca Ana Pauker a jucat un rol, si ca refacerea industriei petroliere
romanesti, jefuita de germani si de sovietici a fost legata de acest
gen de ‘comert’. Apoi, inceputul acordurilor de emigrare mai oficiale
a avut aprobare de la nivelul cel mai inalt, inclusiv Ben Gurion si
Hrusciov, care in 1958 inca controla partial politica Romaniei.

Radu Ioanid - sursa:

Mi s-a paruit reusita si analiza psihologica facuta unora din
personajele implicate in aceasta drama istorica. Reintalnirea Anei
Pauker – comunista inversunata din perioada stalinista a istoriei
romanesti cu fratelei ei, sionist convins venit sa o viziteze din
Israel este perceputa ca o intalnire intre doi frati despartiti de o
prapastie ideologica dar asemanatori prin credinta si devotamentul
fiecaruia dintre ei in propriul ideal.

Capitolele dedicate epocii lui Ceausescu sunt informative dar tocmai
ele nu aduc foarte multe date noi. Cred ca Pacepa a povestit deja
esentialul in ‘Orizonturi rosii’. Informatia este pusa in perspectiva
altor acorduri similare incheiate de Romania cu Germania de exemplu
pentru emigrarea cetatenilor de origine germana din Transilvania, dar
nici acestea nu sunt chiar noutati senzationale.

Sursele de informatie ale cartii sunt in principal studii istorice
publicate in special dupa 1990, si documente din arhivele romanesti si
ale organizatiilor evreiesti americane, autoritatile israeliene fiind
foarte discrete inca in legatura cu aceste aspecte istorice. Cred ca fac foarte bine de
altfel, caci daca Romania si-a deschis portile emigrarii libere dupa 1989,
mai sunt probabil inca tari unde libertatea evreilor si dreptul lor de
a ajunge in tara lor trebuie inca sa fie ‘cumparat’ prin diferite
mijloace. Din partea israeliana cel mai detaliat interviu se pare ca
l-a data Shlomo Leibovici Lais, mai sunt citate si interviuri cu
cativa dintre ambasadorii Israelului in Romania de-a lungul anilor.

Prefatata lui Elie Wiesel, si postfatata lui Pacepa, ca si moto-ul
cartii dramatizeaza istoria peste ceea ce indica faptele, dupa parerea
mea. In definitiv, Israelul a facut ceea ce trebuia sa faca – adica
orice – pentru a salva evreii din comunitatea romaneasca si a-i aduce
in Israel. Nu pot condamna total nici Romania, tara abandonata de
occident in sfera de influenta sovietica, avida dupa mijloacele
economice si parghiile politice necesare pentru a-si dobandi
independenta, cel putin in mod partial. Din carte reiese clar ca
acordul de ‘vanzare a evreilor’ nu a fost unic nici pentru Romania,
care a avut acorduri similare de rascumparare pe bani a propriilor
cetateni cu Germania, si nici pentru Israel, care a platit bani pentru
‘alya’ (emigrare spre Israel) altor tari est-europeene si Etiopiei.
Desigur, acest tip de ‘comert’ a fost posibil datorita incalcarii de
catre Romania comunista a dreptului fundamental de libera circulatie a
cetatenilor sai, dar aceasta este numai una dintre incalcarile
drepturilor omului care s-au petrecut in toate tarile comuniste, fara
legatura directa cu fenomenul emigratiei ‘platite’ spre Israel.

In cele din urma, ceea ce este important, cred eu, este ceea ce a scris si
Andrei Codrescu in recenzia sa. Israelul a platit pentru libertatea mea, a
lui, a multor sute de mii de evrei din Romania. Datorita cestor
acorduri majoritatea evreimii romanesti iesita din Holocaust a ajuns
in Israel si in alte tari ale lumii libere, mai devreme sau mai
tarziu. Povestea asta are multe aspecte, o parte din ele detaliate de
cartea lui Ioanid, dar acesta mi se pare aspectul esential.

I am surprised how little known this film is. Although it was made by Dan Pita, one of the well-known Romanian directors, and one of the few who made quality films during the Romanian Communist era, it does not seem to be considered as one of his best films. There is little information about the film on the Internet, and even the IMDB entry tells almost nothing. I saw it by chance on one of the Romanian satellite TV stations, and it was from many points of view a revelation.


The film is made in 1994, and is set at that time of ‘transition’ a wild process of awakening and confusion the whole Romanian society went through. The Bucharest I knew (having left Romania ten years earlier) was almost gone, streets filled not only with all kinds of dubious street commerce stands, but people also running awoke and fighting to survive in a world of confusion where old rules do not exists any longer and new ones are yet to be written. The trio of young people who are the heroes of the film learn to live and survive in this strange world. They may be the unwanted ‘children of the decree’ which was forbidding abortions in Communist Romania, they may be among the ones who took the streets in 1989 to overturn the dictatorship. Now brothers Pepe (Cristian Iacob – kind of a Romanian version of Brad Pitt) and Fifi (Irina Movila – with beautiful eyes of Tautou intensity) must sustain the family by boxing or becoming a night bird, both getting involved with the underground new Mafia world, both trying to keep their innocence in a world that has forgotten the meaning of the word. The third hero of the triangle is the crippled friend played by Mihai Calin, the fixer for the life of other who cannot fix his own life, the shouter of truth with the megaphone on the streets of the city.

Dan Pita - source

In the Romanian cinema space this film may be lost some place in between the pre-89 and post-89 generation. Truth is that none of the well-known directors of the pre-89 generation – neither Pita, but also not other like Daneliuc or even Pintilie did not succeed to make any great films after 1990. They did however pave the way to the successes of the ‘new wave’ – the minimalist (as some call it) Romanian neo-realism that conquered the festival scenes after 2003. This film has however qualities that stand by themselves. The trio of young actors give emotional performances and make us care about themselves. The reality that is being caught on screen is a snapshot of the 1994 Bucharest the way it was. There is little ballast from the old-style metaphoric and mannerist cinema, but also some strong metaphors that are hard to forget. By the end of the film the two surviving heroes run through a a dark and enclosed labyrinth with no way out in view. Somehow they find the exit, and they run out in the fresh air, just to freeze in disorientation, blinded by the light of a world they do not know how to cope with.