Sorin Botoșeneanu / Boto’s candidacy for the dean of school took us all by surprise in 2008. „The filmmaker without a film”, „the teacher without a course”, the man who didn’t show off, who wasn’t asking for anything for himself, this man wanted to be dean. Strange, of course, in those times… He didn’t have political back-up, a gang or a clan. During those times, there had been no major thaw – he was preceded by a Stalinist-style academic management, removed by a series of bureaucratic events, not by any means a revolution. This was the minor context in which something a little short of a wonder took place; a change. Or, better said, the creation of a premise that years later we would be able to perceive as such. Different. Even for his ennemies: in the fetid toilet (the kind described by Tudor Chirilă in his song „Hotel Cișmigiu”) someone had then scratched a horrible graffiti, the scream of a brute who hated the man who allowed himself to be different.
Once dean, Boto fundamentally changed the Romanian film school. I met him after the Revolution, the actor Victor Rebenciuc was provost, and the film director Stere Gulea was dean – the fisrt reforming team of the school. We would meet in the halls, and in the cold, dark, rooms of the old communist gendarme school on the Matei Voievod street, and we would dream of light, warmth and synchronism. After two years, the dean told us: „We won’t be able to reform this school unless we tear it down and build it up again.” But before ending his (post)revolutionary mandate, Stere Gulea was stopped by the system’s resilience. The restoration followed: returning to the precedent politically related administration; to the dictatorship of the knocking fists, to academic promotions at the call of boots, and staffing based on personal relations and old files. Twenty years later, Boto managed to bring the change. But he did it his way. Different.
He was charming, generous, and curious. For the first time in the school’s 70 year history, the dean’s office was permanently open. When you entered his office, the interior design would strike you. This was a room that not too long ago used to look like the secretariat of the Central Committee of the Romanian Comunist Party. Now it had straight lines, Scandinavian minimalism, a black and white chromatic, and always a different spot of colour: the cover of a book, album, or a new publication, available for anyone who wanted to browse, borrow, or talk about it. Somewhere in the corner, recovered as a piece of history, a Macintosh II, the box through which our generation saw another world. In brief, an expression of visual culture and his belief that art can change the world, which was the essence of his class, held in a small room on the second floor, lost in a hall, shrouded in cigarette smoke. A famous class amongst students, a cathartic meeting for them, an academic legend today.
Boto reformed the school through incremental changes at the essential problematic points that he observed carefully during the decades in which he taught. He managed to defeat the system by subtle yet strong changes and adopting or forming the new teachers, methods, formulas. The modernity and synchronicity of the Romanian Film School today is largely owed to him. He did it by demolishing the mouldy bricks and replacing them with pieces of white marble from his soul. Sacrifice is a big word, but it is true and necessary to say it today: in his modesty, he would’ve never thought of such a word. Boto was different towards the colleagues from his generation, as well as those who came immediately after. Similar to Professor George Littera, he was in no hurry to break down the door of a small publishing house and publish his work. Professor Botoșeneanu never received his official title: he was retired as an associate professor, although his predecessors, and immediate successors used their position to promote their academic status. He is regretted by many, but was betrayed in particular by those who were his close friends, colleagues with whom he began his work in the academic management of the UNATC. He quit his position before finishing his last mandate, not because he had to, but because he considered it moral. A different word that others despised. Boto was caught in the claws forged by his own reform: between the new wave of young teachers and students who wanted reform, on one hand, and the reaction of a system that he was part of, and that partially formed him, on the other.
The last time I spoke to him was this summer. He was battling a terrible cancer, but remained the same Boto: positive, warm, solar. Sorin laid down his weapons on a day, in one of the worst months of October of the last decades. He was mourned and regretted like few others – since the death of George Littera, Boto’s mentor, the school hasn’t lived through such an emotion, and unanimous feeling of love. I’m receiving messages from students who tell me that they can’t join class because they’re extremely touched. It seems pathetic, but it’s only the truth. Our community realises the immense loss. But there’s nothing more to do, only to remember that the „normal” of today is not just a given in itself, but the result of the sacrifice of the few, who were different from the many.
Today, when I’m writing this text, I realise that in the past few years I was a sort of a sad chronicler, writing eulogies for the professors that were dear to me. I didn’t voluntarily choose this position, but this is how it was meant to be – starting with Florian Potra, followed by texts about George Littera, and Dumitru Carabăț, today Sorin Botoșeneanu. I think I can also lay down the arms, and I owe this discharge to Boto as well. In a way, the school today is different, and it doesn’t need an on duty chronicler anymore. As proof, there’s the UNATC press release, sent on the day of our friend’s departure, an expression of our community’s love for Boto, and probably a better portrait of him than I was able to make.
The school’s digital archive was established by him, but it doesn’t include any of his films (!) which is why cinepub.ro can’t present you such a memory. However, he is mentioned in the generics of dozens of school films, and even acted as a spiritual co-author on many of them.
”Stuck on Christmas”, directed by Iulia Rugină and written by her, together with Ana Agopian and Oana Răsuceanu, is a perfect example of Sorin’s influence. The three colleagues, coming from different departments became friends and collaborators in school and remained so to this day. Boto always encouraged them, although the school’s “tradition” is perfectly characterised by a directing teacher’s ironic phrase: “the screenwriters are good, at best, to bring coffee on set to the director”. More so, the female trio was an absolute novelty in a patriarchal industry dominated by alpha males. The three were his students, and Iulia collaborated with him in Let’s Go Digital!, the workshop he held during TIFF. Boto is also the one who recommended them to me as future assistants for the screenwriting class. In over a decade, ”the three little musketeers” have contributed fundamentally to the department’s reform, and today has one of the most solid Screenwriting study programmes of any European film school. Without Boto, however, the school will (now: unfortunately) be different. We cannot thank him today in a different way, other than showing a sensitive, emotional, poetic, different, film, that is, one of the projections of his soul. Which we imagine now being up there, white, peaceful.
Eternal Christmas, Boto!
Lucian Georgescu / cinepub.ro