Astra Film Festival (AFF), is a major event in the European film community and Romania’s leading documentary festival. It is located in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu and it is unique in this part of Europe. The Festival champions that particular type of engaged cinema, which produces a detailed and intimate account of the human condition in the form of powerful cinematic stories. AFF, which came into being 26 years ago, prides itself with having established a consequential framework for the development of documentary cinema in Central&Eastern Europe and having reinforced a platform for emerging filmmakers in Romania and in the entire region by providing networking opportunities as well as national and international visibility for their work.
This year Astra Film Festival takes place between 14 and 20 October. For more information check the Astra Film Festival website.
Netsilik Eskimo Series
These films reveal the live reality of traditional Eskimo life before the European acculturation. The Netsilik Eskimos of the Pelly Bay region in the Canadian Arctic had long lived apart from other people and had depended entirely on the land and their own ingenuity to sustain life through the rigors of the Arctic year.
Sons of Haji Omar
The film documents the life of a tribal family in northeastern Afghanistan. Here we discover a world where people compete for social prestige, make their own clothes, fix cracked pots, load their possessions on the back of their camels, cross rivers with their caravans, and tell exaggerated stories while slowly moving through seasons.
Through These Eyes
The documentary presents the efforts that were made through education to understand human behavior by getting children exposed to different indigenous cultures. It also sheds light on how, with time, the Eskimos’ lives changed, moving from igloos to houses, moving from their traditional way of living to a more modern one.
Aquarela takes audiences on a deeply cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water. Here is a visceral wake-up call that humans are no match for the sheer force and capricious will of Earth’s most precious element.
Shooting the Mafia
Sicilian Letizia Battaglia began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first dared to point her camera at a brutally slain victim. A woman whose passions led her to become a photojournalist, she found herself on the front lines during one of the bloodiest chapters in Italy’s recent history. She fearlessly and artfully captured everyday Sicilian life to tell the narrative of the community she loved forced into silence by the Cosa Nostra.
Rebels with a Cause
Dobrivoie Kerpenisan arrived in Romania on the 17th of december 1989 – just a few hours before all borders were closed. He was an art student in Germany and returned to Sanpetru Mare to visit his grandparents. What happened in this small village not far from Timisoara during the week prior to Christmas 1989? From the very first day the young photographer followed the people with his camera. What he captured was heated rebellion and anarchy in his native village, mass protests, looting and severely wounded bodies in Timişoara. Based on the rare and never before published images, his new film traces the protagonists of that time and portraits them 30 years later.
A Perfect Housewife
Growing up in Israel, Jane never conformed to her family’s patriarchal traditions; she refused to marry, choosing instead to join the army, and afterwards to study filmmaking. When at 38 she becomes pregnant, she returns in the midst of her family equipped with a camera, trying to address the years of silence and to understand her mother, herself and their strained relationship.
To My Parents
As a child of Portuguese immigrants in Luxembourg, Melanie Pereira explores her parents’ past through videotapes, which they used to record their new surroundings and doings in that distant country. We discover their pasts and their struggles, as well as the director’s own effort to adjust in a country where she wasn’t born nor raised, without her parents.
We Were All to be Queens
An autoethnographic journey going through the VHS home videos from the filmmaker’s childhood. The film questions the social and cultural structures that women are put through from a very young age to become the perfect woman, exploring the tradition of Valencia’s Fallas as their ultimate objectification. But queens, castles and blue princes are left behind and the woman can finally break free.
„What are you up to tonight? Do you want me? We could have fun together…” Seven Romanian male-to-male sex workers in Berlin have their portraits taken as they listen and react to recordings of their own experiences.
Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life
Jonathan Agassi, one of the world’s most successful gay porn stars, built his fame on what is considered a global taboo, but in fact pleases millions. A rare and intimate look at the world of porn and escorting, as well as on a unique relationship between a mother and son, who courageously redefine familiar concepts. This is a film about a lonely person who seeks love and meaning, but is condemned to a destructive lifestyle, numbing his feelings with powerful drugs.
In a deserted Macedonian village, Hatidze, a 50-something woman, checks her bee colonies nestled in the rocks. Serenading them with a secret chant, she gently maneuvers the honeycomb without netting or gloves. Back at her homestead, Hatidze tends to her handmade hives and her bedridden mother, occasionally heading to the capital to market her wares.
Laila at the Bridge
Former child bride Laila Haidari, who had witnessed her brother’s long battle with drug addiction, devotes her life to helping the men and women in Kabul struggling with one of the deadliest problems in Afghanistan: heroin addiction.
Аlina is a mother of seven: six are her own children and one is adopted. Her ex-husband is from Ethiopia, this is why all her children are of mixed origin. Only her adopted son is white, but he is psychologically unstable. Alina’s older children realize what complications the adoption might bring and are afraid that there won’t be enough room, time and love for everyone.
A Thousand Girls Like Me
When Khatera, a 23-year-old Afghan, opposes the will of her family and the traditions of her country to seek justice for 13 years of sexual abuse from her father, she sheds light on the faulty Afghan judicial system and the women it rarely protects.
Sommai, a former sex worker from Pattaya, Thailand, lives in the windswept Northern Jutland. 25 years ago, she came to Denmark to marry Niels, and ever since, she has helped countless women from her village in Thailand marry Danish men. Now, it is her niece Kae’s turn. Sommai and Niels put a personal ad in the newspaper, and soon a suitor comes forward. Ten years later, we meet all of them again and see the consequences of their choices in life.
School of Seduction
In School of Seduction, we follow the lives of three young Russian women: Diana, Lida and Vika, who live in St. Petersburg and share the goal of finding a husband and climbing the social ladder. But how to find a man in a country where women by far outnumber men? Psychologist Vladimir Rakovsky has an easy solution. He is a tutor of his own “School of Seduction” and runs highly priced courses, simply titled: “How to seduce rich men”. But does it work?
The Border Fence
A documentary about populism and its absurd consequences. Brenner Pass, Alpine border, spring 2016: the Austrian government announces the construction of a border fence, expecting a shift of the refugee routes to Italy after the Balkan route is closed. The residents fear the fence just as much as the supposedly threatening influx of foreigners to their homeland. Two years later, the fence is still rolled up in a container, as the inrush of refugees never occurred.
One Child Nation
China’s One Child Policy, the extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child, may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the trauma of its brutal enforcement is only just beginning. The documentary explores the ripple effect of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another – from abandoned newborns to forced sterilizations and abortions.
The refugee crisis captured in one night, among exhausted crowds of work-seeking migrants and asylum seekers patiently persisting in their effort to begin a new life. It all happens in Tel Aviv, in front of the Department of Immigration, where hundreds of people line up every night to make sure they are first in line when the offices open.
An emotionally charged poetic encounter between the filmmaker and other psoriasis sufferers on behalf of yet another 125 million people around the world who are silently enduring the secret pain of a very visible yet hidden disease. The film explores skin as a metaphor of strength, belief, belonging and alienations… a determined attempt of a healing journey.
The Invisible Sanctuary
In Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, Masayo Fujio and Nobuko Takahashi narrate the painful account of their life. Through their stories, mingled with that of the district, Suujin, the past of an invisible Japanese community that is still discriminated today gradually surfaces again. The Burakumin, the descendants of a caste of pariahs from the feudal era, have a tragic history of severe discrimination and ostracism.
Palace for the People
Palace for the People tells the stories of the most emblematic five buildings of socialist times – highly representative for the epoch and witnessing the historical turbulence in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century. They were unique architectural creatures made with a lot of courage and a bit of lunacy to remind the people there was an ultimate power guiding them and a brighter future expecting them. Each building was the tallest, the largest, or had the most advanced technology of its time. Now that socialism is over, it’s high time we go back and reveal their hidden secrets. How do these buildings manage to survive nowadays?
The Romanian village of Mâlăncrav. These days, there’s always people leaving for uncertain and temporary work in western Europe, in the hope of making a better life back home. The ebb and flow of departures and homecomings affects every family. Through intimate portraits of people at the heart of the community, the film tells the stories of Natalia, Alina, Andrei, Ioan and Niculae. Strong and determined women; young people still without a care; and the last remaining shepherds clinging onto their land and their flocks.
The Distance Between Me and Me
We all wrestle with our past. Some more than others. Romanian Jewish avant-garde poet, musician, visual artist, femme fatale, prodigious drinker and terminal smoker Nina Cassian had more than most to wrestle with: her refuge in the Communist underground during the Fascist 1940s put her first in complicit proximity to the Stalinist regime of the 1950s, then propelled her on a collision course with the Ceauşescu regime in the 1970s, and eventually sent her into an unwanted New York exile in 1985.
The House with a Lock
What does corruption mean to us? This documentary is a reflection on the phenomenon of corruption, starting from a recent case of fraud in the high-school graduation exam and stepping further into a juridical, historical, sociological and anthropological analysis of corruption.
Waad al-Kateab was a student in 2011 when the civil war in Syria started and she became an activist and citizen journalist reporting for international media. For Sama is a video diary, told in a first-person voice, addressed to al-Kateab’s infant daughter that documents five years of Waad’s life, as she falls in love, gets married and has a child, while the traumatic effects of the conflict make life unliveable for everyone around her.
A documentary essay that examines the strict structures that dictate the behaviour of people in a small industrial Russian town. With an eye for visual composition, Ksenia Okhapkina’s film constructs a discourse on state propaganda through the subtle observations of innocuous, everyday situations, for example scenes of young girls learning about discipline at a ballet school or young boys training for the army shown in juxtaposition with snowy landscapes and the rigorous coordination of operations at the local factory.
Doris, a young Wayuu woman, has a dream about her late cousin and decides to exhume her remains in order meet her one last time before saying goodbye.