Four Early Contributions of Romanian Filmmakers to Modernity

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Marian ȚuȚui


In his novel “The Castle in the Carpathians” (1892) Jules Verne imagines a Romanian landlord who bought only for himself the invention of cinema in order to keep seeing his beloved deceased opera singer. The Romanian peasants who could see the images were very impressed. It is clear that Jules
Verne had a great intuition again because Romanians have been fascinated from the beginnings by the magic of cinema and even contributed to it early.

Romanian neurologist Gheorghe Marinescu (1863-1938) with the help of the fi rst camera that took moving pictures in Romania in 1898 shot one year later the fi rst scientifi c film in the world Walking Diffi culties in Organic Hemiplegia/ Tulburările de mers în hemiplegia organică. Auguste Lumière did not understand the potential of cinema to become an art but he acknowledged Dr. Marinescu’s priority in a letter of July 29, 1924: “Your papers on the use of cinematography in the study of nervous diseases really passed me by the hand when I was receiving the review La semaine medicale, but then I had other
concerns of industrial order, which did not allow me to devote myself to biological research. I confess that I have forgotten these works and I am grateful to you for have reminding me about them. Unfortunately, few scholars followed the path open by you.“

A Romanian Jew, Sigmund Weinberg (1868- 1954), opened the first established movie theatre in Turkey in the Comedy Section of Darülbedayi (City Theater) of Istanbul, in 1914 was appointed head of the new Military studio of the Turkish Army (MOSD) and together with the Fuat Uzkınay (1888 – 1956) made the fi rst documentary, The Fall of the Russian Monument in Saint Stephen/ Ayastefanos’taki Rus Abidesinin Yıkılışı (1914), as well as the first fiction films in Turkey, Himmet Ağa’s Marriage/ Himmet Aga’nin Izdivaci (1914) and Leblebici Horhor Aga (1916), unfortunately all lost.

The photographers Ienache (1878-1954) and Milton Manakia (1882-1964) made fi lms between 1907- 1918 on the life of the Vlach shepherds but also about the last but one sultan of Turkey Mehmed V Reşâd. Therefore they are considered the first real filmmakers in the Balkans and among the fi rst in the world who made ethnographic films. Although they considered themselves Romanians and their fi lms have Romanian or Greek inserts, for different other reasons they are claimed by fi ve Balkan nations (Northern Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Greece and Turkey).

The great Hungarian director Jenő Janovics (1872- 1945) worked also in Romania and in 1920 he made the fi lm The Nightmare/ Din groazele lumii / A világrém (Romania- Hungary). In this story about how syphilis destroys a family, the director made for the first time in the world a microscope filming. In this sense, he was assisted by the Romanian biologist
Constantin Levaditti (1874 – 1953) and his educational film received a grant from the Romanian Ministry of Health.

Scientific Film Ethnographic Film Filmmaker Balkans Filmed Report
Published: Dec 20, 2021

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Film Studies