Panitza Library

Was There, or, Was There Not a Revolution? 1989 and the New Romanian Cinema, by Prof. Sean Homer

November 10, 2017

The execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu on Christmas Day 1989 has been described as one of the most profound psychic traumas of Romania’s recent history, generating repeated interest from contemporary Romanian filmmakers. In 2006 alone there were three films produced by directors associated with the Romanian new wave on the topic:  Corneliu Porumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, Radu Muntean’s The Paper Will Be Blue and Catalin Mitulescu’s The Way I Spent the End of the World. What characterizes these films is a questioning of the past, an interrogation of the truth behind these recent events and an exploration of the nature of historical evidence. The Romanian revolution remains the most controversial and bloodiest of the so-called “velvet” revolutions of the late 1980s and a series of questions remain unanswered as to what actually took place. Focusing on The Paper Will Be Blue and 12:08 East of Bucharest, this paper will take up the dilemma Porumboiu poses – Was there or was there not a revolution? Indeed, the film raises the question as to the very nature of revolutions, as an event (rupture) or process. Drawing upon the notion of “cultural trauma” as a tear in the social fabric that cannot be satisfactorily accounted for in social discourse the paper will explore the nature of the specific event, the 1989 “revolution”, and the subsequent struggle to give meaning to this event in contemporary Romanian cinema.

Sean Homer is Professor of Film and Literature at the American University in Bulgaria, where he teaches courses in Film Criticism, Balkan Cinema, Modernism, Postmodern Literature and Psychoanalysis. He is author of Fredric Jameson: Marxism (Polity Press 1998), Jacques Lacan (Routledge 2004) and Slavoj Žižek and Radical Politics (2016). He is co-editor (with Douglas Kellner) of Fredric Jameson: A Critical Reader (Palgrave Macmillan 2005). Prof. Homer has published extensively on psychoanalysis, cultural theory and Balkan cinema. His work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Greek, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is currently completing on a book on History, Cultural Trauma and Narrative in Balkan Cinema.

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