Mirel Leventer preserves in his private collection a number of snapshots, all black and white, in which in the foreground appears the person who played a decisive role in the coalescing of the student movement in the Faculty of Architecture: Mac Popescu. His real name is Emil Barbu Popescu. “The greatest help came from Mac Popescu, who was himself a legendary university leader at the time. He was a professor, dean, rector, and also a great supporter of young people and of student movements – whether artistic or sporting. As far as I was concerned, Mac Popescu was of enormous support. Both when I was a student, and when I was active in Club A, but also after that.” He is today one of the most respected personalities of Romanian architecture.
Mac Popescu’s role regarding this collection was an essential one: he looked after Mirel Leventer’s photographs and films temporarily in the period in which the latter had left Romania. “In 1985 I left for Israel. For ever, I thought at the time. I lived there for eight years; I did military service in Israel. I couldn’t take all these things there with me, so I decided to leave them, on my departure, to Mac Popescu, who had helped me and protected me so much when I was a student. He was the only person I could trust to preserve them. He put them, well protected, in an office of his. In 1993 I returned to Romania. When I got to Bucharest, my first call was on Mac Popescu. Everything I had left was there – in the same drawer where I had put them on my departure. So I recovered them. I took them back and how they are in my possession,” explains Mirel Leventer.
The film Balada albă (The white ballad), winner of two awards in 1974, is in the Mirel Leventer private collection both in its original format, on a roll of film, and in digitized format. The film reconstructs the tragic death of a colleague from the Architecture Faculty during a winter excursion to the mountains. Because the vacation after the first examination session was in February, many students left to walk in the mountains then, even if the weather conditions were not favourable. In the winter of 1973, a group of Architecture students was caught by a blizzard, and the student in question basically sacrificed his life to save the others. It was a death that shook all his colleagues, and some of them paid him posthumous homage through this film. “It is a film that began like a reportage on the funeral of a colleague of ours, in sixth year. Together with some colleagues, he climbed the mountain in very difficult conditions and in saving the others, he met his own end. He was found dead after three days of blizzard; he was completely frozen and was, by a bitter irony of fate, very close to the chalet, on the way back. A terrible tragedy. Without initially thinking that anything in particular would come out of it, out of a sort of inertia, I filmed the funeral; I filmed it on 8 mm. Then I used the scenes in the 16 mm film. I made a screenplay, together with three other colleagues; we climbed the mountain, we repeated the route the following year; we filmed in similar conditions; we put ourselves in danger too. Then I did the editing in our laboratory at the Faculty; I did amateur editing. That was in 1974; the tragedy was in 1973,” recalls Mirel Leventer. The film was shown at two film festivals, and at each it won an award: the National Festival of Student Art in Cluj-Napoca and the Festival of Bucharest Cine-clubs. It was also awarded a prize by the magazine Cinema. The music is by a well known Romanian singer-songwriter, Dorin Liviu Zaharia. He plays the flute and recites a poem written by himself entitled “La trecătoare” (At the crossing), superimposed on an extract from the melancholic piece “Oh Well, Part Two” composed by Peter Green and performed by the then group Fleetwood Mac, who were in vogue at the time. After 1989, the film was projected as part of the Club A evenings.
Augustin Juretić published the book Tito perseguidor (Tito the Persecutor) under the pseudonym Georgius Liburnicus in 1952, in the early years of socialist Yugoslavia. The year of the publication is even more important as it was a time of change in Yugoslav foreign policy with its turning towards the Western countries. In an effort to normalise relations with the West, Yugoslavia began the partial democratisation of its society and endeavoured to present itself as a society embracing democratic values. Tito the Persecutor confutes this image of Yugoslavia in the Western media, and reveals the true nature of the communist regime, describing the persecution of the Catholic Church and its clergy.
The book can be regarded as providing cultural opposition as its entire content deals with criticism of socialist Yugoslavia. It is written in the Spanish language, one of the world languages, and is thus accessible to a greater number of readers as well as policy makers.
After the failure to register of the Croatian Review in France, Nikolić settled in Barcelona in 1968, where he received the Spanish government’s permission to publish the quarterly periodical. Permission was granted to him for a period of twenty years, and that concession was valid from 9 September of 1970 to 9 September 1990. This was precisely the year when Nikolić returned to Croatia, where review has once more been published since 1991. The Croatian Review was clandestinely read among the Croatian Marxist intelligentsia, and because of its influence it represented a great threat to the Yugoslav socialist regime.
Life Flows Quietly By.../Partisans (1957), director Binka Zhelyazkova, script-writer Hristo Ganev, cameraman Vasil Holiolchev
The movie was created from the point of view of participants in the communist resistance who truly believed in the communist utopia. Initially, the script was entitled "Partisans". The plot is built around the clash between former partisans who remain true to their ideals and partisans who betray them. The principal character is a former partisan leader who is an embodiment of moral degradation, narrow-mindedness, touchiness and presumption and who exchanged his ideals for the high position of director general. After a series of well-described deep psychological dramatic situations, the end of the movie increases the feeling of despair and no future.
The creation of the film went through a number of obstacles. After a series of discussions of the script, the screen tests, the directorial script, the finished movie etc., in 1958 the film was banned with a Decree of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party regarding the state and the further development of the Bulgarian cinematography. The chronology and the locations where the discussions took place as well as the participants reveal the censorial mechanisms, the institutions and the strong centralization of the party policy of direct intervention in the creative process. The discussions of the film script began in 1955 in the Artistic Council (AC) of the Feature Film Studios (FFS); on that level there were different opinions and a number of artists shared positive views about the script of Hristo Ganev; they found it to be "absolutely necessary", "innovative, brave script which disclosed problems that needed to be solved' and even recommended "sharpening". The directorial script of Binka Zhelyazkova was also supported by some of the cinematographers. There were brave positive opinions about the finished movie as well. The meetings were then moved to the office of the Minister of Culture. There were debates on that level as well. The then Director of FFS Georgi Yovkov declared: "This will be a useful movie. We always plead realism but very often we kill it." Many of the cinematographers present openly supported the film in which they saw "perfect conformity of directorial concept and visual decision". The Artistic Council of FFS nominated in early 1958 the movie for participation at the festival in Karlovy Vary in 1958; another contested movie, "On the Small Island" (director Rangel Valchanov, script-writer Valeri Petrov, cameraman Dimo Kolarov), was nominated for the festival in Cannes. Several months later there was another final discussion of the finished movie with the new title "Life Flows Quietly By..."; the meeting was presided over by the head of the Administration of Cinematography. Although there were debates even on that level and the cinematographers present defended the movie, it was stigmatized mainly by former partisans holding high public positions, predominantly military, as unsound, slanderous and anti-party "film which is only capable of giving grounds to our enemies to talk against the party and the partisan movement", "pernicious and it will harm the working class in the people's democratic countries as well as in the capitalist countries". The final decision about the movie was made by the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party with the Decree of July 5, 1958. "There are particular films which present our reality one-sidedly and distortedly such as "Life Flows Quietly By...". In fact, this film dethrones the image of the national partisans, slanders their struggle and dedication to the national cause, makes untrue generalizations about our reality." The movies "Life Flows Quietly By..." and "On the Small Island" were banned. The executive bodies of the Administration of Cinematography, the Feature Film Studios and the Ministry of Culture were replaced. The party censorship strengthened. "Life Flows Quietly By..." was shown 31 years later, in 1988 (all quotations of reports from the discussions and of resolutions are by Станимирова 2012: 93-142).
The troubles of the movie increased the feeling of fear and insecurity among the then Bulgarian film-workers and paralyzed the entire cinema production in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, in the following years and decades, there still were vanguard, brave and engaged original films.