Directed by: Mona NICOARĂ
Length: 89 min.
Mona NICOARĂ - Director
Ada SOLOMON - Producer
Alexandru SOLOMON, Mona NICOARĂ – Co-Producers
Ovidiu MĂRGINEAN, Rudolf Costin – Director of photography
Dana BUNESCU - Editing
Nina CASSIAN - Music
Șerban JIPA - Grafics
We all wrestle with our past. Some more than others. Nina Cassian - poet, musician, visual artist, femme fatale, prodigious drinker and terminal smoker - had more than most to wrestle with: her refuge in the Communist underground during the Fascist 1940s put her first in complicit proximity to the Stalinist regime of the 1950s, propelled her on a collision course with the Ceaușescu regime in the 1970s, and then sent her into an unwanted New York exile in 1985, when her samizdat poems led to a secret police murder. An intensely personal film about art, belief, and politics, The Distance Between Me and Me looks at the friction between individual memory and official archives, between our present reality and the fictions of our former selves. Nina’s words during her last year of life are set against a rich archive of films, music, poems, official television appearances, never-before-seen private recordings, and secret police surveillance materials. The result is as an illumination of the ethical and aesthetic quandaries that belong as much to our past as they seem to prefigure our troubled future.
A mesmerizing artist whose life is a fight to the death between ethics and aesthetics safeguards her faith in fairy tales through fascism, communism, and an unwanted exile into late capitalism.
My film work revolves around questions of individual responsibility and choice in the face of systemic injustice and repression. This is an extension of my interests as a writer: I started out as a poet in Communist Romania, teasing out the mundane to express the melancholy condition of the individual under totalitarianism. In the literary circles in which I spent the last years of the Ceaușescu era, Nina Cassian was, despite her exile, a palpable presence: writers constantly reminisced of her incisive wit, legendary affairs, and, yes, mesmerizing ugliness. I first understood her as a liberating, dissident hero, and only later found out about her complicated, at times complicit history with power and politics.
Together with Producers Ada and Alexandru Solomon, who has an even longer personal story with Nina, we embarked on this project of excavating the many layers of mythology and ideology that surround this unique, defiant figure in a country where before 1989 dissent was rare, where “Communist” became an unexamined dirty word in the first minutes of the Revolution, where Jewishness remains to this day a taboo subject, and “feminism” is a joke. We believe that Nina’s story teaches necessary lessons in a time when creative freedom is once again threatened by the rise of authoritarianism and extremism, surveillance returns as a tool for global repression and censorship, and the forces of nationalism bear down on more global, internationalist projects.
Mona Nicoară was born in Communist Romania and, until 1989, dedicated her early years to becoming a poet in a small, largely underground community of young writers who did not abide by the creative conventions of the Ceaușescu era. She started working in film in 1997 as an Associate Producer for CHILDREN UNDERGROUND, which received the Special Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. Her directorial debut, OUR SCHOOL, premiered in the US at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, went on to over 70 festivals worldwide, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Best US Feature at AFI SilverDocs, was nominated for Best Eastern European Documentary at the Silver Eye Awards and for Best Romanian Documentary at the Gopo Awards. Nicoară also works as a festival programmer for One World Romania and fARAD, and has taught film, writing, and literature at Columbia University, the Cooper Union, New York University, and Rutgers.