Day 1, Keynote: The Cinema Experience in Changing Times

“If you found the time to come to Bucharest to talk about cinema, it’s still alive,” Cristian Mungiu said, opening his keynote conversation with Michael Gubbins on a hopeful note.

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Michael Gubbins, Consultant, SampoMedia, UK (left) with Cristian Mungiu Director, Exhibitor and Distributor, Romania (right).

But it wasn’t all good news. Mungiu spoke candidly about the very real threats to the future of our art form and its activity in both exhibition and production.

“What we call auteur cinema is not very popular and the numbers are decreasing,” Mungiu continued, “We have more sepctators coming to the cinema but most of them understand cinema as entertainnent.” Not wanting to load the term “entertainment” as either good or bad, Mungiu spoke instead about the challenges we face if the trend continues in Europe. Unless we create an interest in these other, smaller films and this type of cinema, it will not have a viable future.

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Life has changed dramatically – not just in the past ten years, but over the past few decades. No longer is it the case, Mungiu mused, that it used to be that people had all the time in the world to go to the cinema and to read books. Now, kids have lots of other things to do and, most significantly, “things that happen in real time.” Mungiu referred to activities like eating out with friends and music concerts as the “real time” experiences that younger audiences crave, relegating cinema to a thing they look at only in the spare moments that appear when they’re not doing more intersteing things with their friends.

One of the most opportune avenues is education, and young people must be introduced to cinema from as early as age two, and all the way up until age eighteen, if we’ve any hope of them becoming spectators later in their lives. Otherwise, they simply won’t understand the language of cinema, let alone its rich history and diversity.

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“The situation is changing,” Mungiu warned, “Unless we will be able to refurbish these new theatres as places of interest where you can go and do a lot of other stuff, besides watching cinema, I don’t think there is any future.” Though this may err on bleak in its outlook, Mungiu was earnest about our very pressing need to act, “Cinema,” Mungiu impressed, “is a political decision.”

Photographs courtesy of Ionut Dobre.

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