M.M.: After a short break, we return to full strength with a new interview with Mr. Viorel Hritcu, director of the Unirea (Uninion) Cinema Botosani, a north eastern town where exists still a cinema which’s lights haven’t yet wither, one of the very few cinemas in Romania (with the exception of the cinemas in malls which never screen Romanian films).Just as Anamaria Antoci said, as few cinemas as we have, we can not afford too many expectations, but here it is, a cinema from a “corner” of the country holding firm its position in summer and in winter, with a full hall at the film premieres, when the public gets in with (free!) invitations, with a single spectator for many films, as it happened with The Dead Land (Tara Moarta, 2017) by Radu Jude, a spectator that decided to pay 5 lei, which is bit under a pound (“a huge” hole in the pocket, but a good investment), instead of buying a two flavour ice cream from the stand just next to the cinema. It is a local miracle how the cinema succeeds to survive, and also to have Romanian film premieres accompanied by guests from the branch. And it’s a big fuss at these premieres, I know because I have been part of the public many times, and the hall is full, and it’s exciting, festive, and one can see high heels and ties and it is also free. That’s when one can see the film lovers all together, otherwise… TV, laptop, tablet, mobiles… or who knows maybe their love stops at 4,99 lei. But anyway, paradoxically, the cinema in the mall doesn’t seem to have this problem, even though the ticket price is triple or quadruple (like the Flip jump in artistic ice skating).
What is certain is that if the Unirea Cinema had closed down in the next 10 after 1989, detur la Preciziei would not have existed. How much effort, what determination, how much love for film, creativity and adaptability to keep alive this last cinematic Mohican in the county is difficult to imagine. That is exactly why we didn’t want to imagine, so we asked directly, what many people from Botosani are wondering, how the cinema still survives in an environment that is far from being propitious. And we received an answer of a disarming modesty.
V.H.: Hello, I am Viorel from Unirea Cinema Botosani and I have acetone in my blood (when films were still on film and it broke, we used acetone to fix it… a long time ago) and a Romanian film lover.
I don’t give interviews or go to the television or radio, I just try to do my job the best I can.
M.M.: But we insisted because, besides the directors, actors, producers in there are also these modern Sisyphus-es who somehow, only they know how, save the last few cinema halls from extinction.
How long have you been the director of this cinema?
V.H.: I’m the administrator, some kind of “boss”, with 4 colleagues, Maricica, Mihaela, Dan and Stefan, we are the ones who struggle to have a cinema in Botosani. I’ve been working here since 1984, cinema is mon amour. I speak less and try to do more and I live with the hope that the sun will rise on our street as well at some point, on Unirii Street, No. 24, Botosani, with the renovations and modernizations the cinema needs.
M.M.: Would you tell us a few things about Unirea Cinema’s history?
V.H.: The Cinema Unirea was built in 1977, it was one of the 15 cinemas in Botosani County… today it is the only one. Many films have been screened here, many quests, actors, directors stood on this scene, many awards, it was the first place in the country for its box office for many years, and I’ve met an avid film audience.
M.M.: Public that seems to have changed its interests in the meantime…
Did anything change when competition was again present in the city (Cine Globe, the mall cinema)?
V.H.: Nothing changed, I don’t consider it competitions or at least I don’t feel it like that, the only competition is with ourselves. It is probably an advantage for the film lovers. We’re doing the best we can each day, every day until better times will come for us, the last Mohicans in the cinema, but that doesn’t depend on us only.
M.M.: How do you manage to organize event screenings, to bring films in premier, followed by directors, actors (and the trophies – like the Berlinale Golden Bear, that some of these films won in festivals) to Botosani (a provincial city, not without a cultural history but quite far geographically from the capital or other cultural centers)?
V.H.: The cinema is alive and to keep it like that, it needs events, premieres, special guests, directors, actors. But it goes both ways, they need us as much as we need them. We’re a single “body”, we live for one another, we can only tic together. The word has spread that at Botosani we welcome them with our fully opened arms and hearts, we, the cinema’s staff, but the cinephile public as well. We simply love film and the ones who make it and we are proud of them.
M.M.: What guest names does the cinema have in its “track record”?
V.H.: Tudor Giurgiu, Andi Vasluianu, Bobby Păunescu, Monica Bârlădeanu, Stere Gulea, Cristi Puiu, Ion Sapdaru, Cosmina Stratan, Oana Giurgiu, Letiţia Ştefănescu, Cristian Mungiu, Vlad Ivanov and many more.
M.M.: Future events?
V.H.: On the 30th of September, we are waiting for the team of Breaking News (Iulia Rugina, 2017) to promote their film. (Therefore, people of Botosani you should start clearing your schedule on the evening of the 30th, and in case you were wondering the film is no longer than one hour and 21 minutes, less than a football game)
M.M.: And here we are at the end of our interview and we’ll wrap everything up with a short word for the film public from Botosani, but not only.
V.H.: A word for the cinephiles in Botosani, we are waiting for them at the Unirea Cinema, our city’s cinema. And we promise them that we who work here, won’t have peace until the sun rises on Unirii Street 24 – a cinema renovated and modernized. Thank you!
M.M.: We thank you as well, not only for the interview (although these things must be said and heard) but mostly for what you are doing. The public must understand that there is no film without cinema halls, that film doesn’t only mean stars and shiny lights and that sometimes, people like Viorel Hritcu, people who don’t allow another cinema hall to close its doors, in a country of cinemas turned into Bingo’s, would deserve an Oscar.