Mirel Bran is an extremely well-regarded and experienced journalist. During his career, he has acted as Romanian correspondent for French paper Le Monde and French radio station Inter. His submission to ECU 2010 is Vanaturol de Securisti (Securitate Hunter), a documentary that follows Marius Oprea who, after growing up under the oppressive communist regime in Romania (1945-1989), is determined to bring those who committed war crimes to justice.

By Edward Caffrey
Translated by Lindsay Mayer, Eliza Gauthier

Q: What is your documentary about ?

After WWII, communism was installed in Romania by Soviet tanks. Some tens of thousands of Romanians went underground to organize an armed opposition against the new regime. This shadow army resisted ten years and then withdrew to the Carpates [a mountain range on the eastern side of Romania]. The Securitate, the political police of the regime, tracked them down and some 10,000 supporters were executed without a trial and thrown in mass graves scattered throughout Romania. Marius Oprea, nicknamed in Romania the Chasseur de la Securitate (Hunter of the Securitate) created in 2005 The Institute of Investigation of the Investigation of Communist Crimes in Romaniaafter the model of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Washington. The hunt for the Nazis inspired the hunt for the Securitate. Marius Oprea and his team of archeologists criss-crossed Romania to exhume the follower s belongings and to return them to their children and grandchildren. At the beginning of filming I thought I was telling a tragic story. The story is indeed tragic but what is most notable to me is the coping of the descendants of the victims who recuperated their belongings to bury them with a mass service. This film is the story of re-found peace and a mourning that took place 60 years later.

Q: How did you find out about Marius Oprea?

My journalistic work brought me to meet this man. I had told his story in the pages of the newspaper Le Monde and in a book published by Cygne (Paris) but I always had the feeling that it was an unaccomplished mission. The visual potential of this history was enormous and I came some years later with the idea in mind to make a documentary. It became a bit of an obsession.

Q: Why did you decide to make a documentary about his work?

I was 25 years old when the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu fell. I grew up under the terror of The Securitate. When the regime fell, I felt an enormous void in my life. I had bad luck finding the link between my life under the dictatorship and my life after. For twenty years I had been marked by this void. (I hope) the film about The Securitate Hunter allows me to reconcile with the past. I had already made films with French production companies but this time, I wanted to make a film without the usual constraints the television chains impose. I decided that my French production company would finance this project to allow me total liberty. And I don t regret it. Obviously, you can t be crazy all the time, but from time to time it feels good.

Q: Who were the Securitate?

The Securitate is still present not only in the imagination of Romanians but also in the economy and Romanian politics. The old torturers converted to business, others to key positions in political parties and the administration. Romania has never had the political will to free itself (from this). The disorderly transition to democracy divided the country between a rich minority who had connections in the world with la police politique (political police), and the poor masses who get by today with an average salary of 350 euros in the European Union.

Q: The documentary suggests that members of the Securitate, who perpetrated these crimes, still have significant political power in Romania. Do you believe that in making this documentary you have put pressure on these individuals?

This documentary will surely put the pressure on the former torturers of The Securitate. The Romanians think they know what happened. Myself, I was persuaded. But in making the film I discovered that I didn't know as much as I thought. I was amazed by the reaction of young Romanians who had known communism directly and who previewed the film. They wish today that justice be made they re more radical than their parents. It's logical because they don t have a direct connection with the dictatorship. They do not have the feeling of collective guilt still present in their parents generation. It's the new generation who will be capable of putting pressure on the judicial system to settle the problem. But these youth will not do anything if the true story of their country isn't told to them. It's what the documentary La Chasseur de la Securitate intends to do. People often tell me that it s necessary to film the pages of the past. I am the first to do it on the condition that people know what is written on this page.

Q: Do you think that international awareness of these atrocities will put greater pressure on Romanian politicians to prosecute perpetrators of war-crimes in Romania?

International pressure can play a very important role. Look at the surveys and you notice that the majority of Romanians are more confident in the European Commission and other international organizations than their own political parties. They are persuaded only exterior pressure is capable of putting their country back on track. Remember what happened with the Holocaust: It took a generation to realize the scope of the crime against humanity. For the victims of communist dictatorships it will be the same. It's today, a generation after the fall of these regimes, that one can finally start shedding light on the past. The former torturers were cleared until now because the prosecutors considered that their crimes were ordinary crimes that were dictated. It only takes a single procurer to have the courage to see these atrocities as unforgivable crimes against humanity. When that happens, you can start talking about a Nurenberg for (Romania). I hope that we will be able to put a sufficient amount of pressure to create judicial precedent.

Q: Are you working on a new project?

My next documentary is connected to « Chasseur de la Securitate ». In 2010 I will continue the second part of the story. In the spring, Marius Oprea and his team of archaeologists will resume their work of to find the (bodies of the supporters). This time he will be accompanied by American volunteers impassioned by history and archaeology. This allows me to have a different angle on the story. 10,000 followers executed by the Securitate went underground with the conviction that the Americans would come to relieve Romania of the Soviet clutch. But the Americans did not come. What s ironic is that they arrive 60 years later to exhume their posessions. And there you go, another film.

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