My friend Justin Blair and I made the documentary “Across the Forest” about the supernatural beliefs that still exist in the villages of Transylvania. We knew of the reputation Transylvania had in the west and wanted to bring to light something more truthful than the misconceptions perpetuated by the pop culture machine.

If you send me a mailing address we would be glad to send you a copy in hopes that you might mention it on your wonderful blog. If you live in Romania please remember to send the postal code along with your address.

Indeed I do live in Romania :P

Jeez, haven’t seen the whole film but that lady singing that really old religious song about gives me the shivers!

It reminds me to mention an interesting Romanian word that you can hear in the clip – porunca – used to mean something like “a written order” (like from a general in the military) from an old Slavic root.

In English, what are called “The 10 Commandments” is often translated in Romanian as “Cele zece porunci” or literally “those 10 written orders”.


10 thoughts on “Mailbag!

  1. According to the dictionary, “porunca” is an order “oral or written.” You hardly hear this word in contemporary Romanian, except when it comes to religion, or as an archaic / historic reference.
    I did not see the movie but the song is definitely called “bocet” (wail / lament; it’s a Latin word) and the woman seems to be “bocitoare” (a wailer / mourner). There are two important motives in the burial lyrics: “soarele & luna” (the sun & the moon), which send to the pagan root of the song. This is not considered a religious song (at least not Christian) but folk lyrics, although she calls God.
    As far as I can guess from the clip & website, the movie is more about the customs related to the myth of resurrection in the Romanian tradition (which is not exclusively Christian!), with a special interest in anathemas.
    By the way, today is “Sambata mortilor / Mosii de iarna” (the Saturday of dead people). Traditionally, people go to church where they give the priest a list with names of dead people in their families, in order to be called during the mass. This list is called “pomelnic” (yeah, Slavic root, it means “diptych”). Than they share food (“a imparti / imparteala” this time Latin root). The one who receives the food has to say “bodaproste / bogdaproste” (from Bulgarian “Bog da prosti” – “God gives to the little people”) and the one who offers the food answers “Sa fie primit!” (“to be received”). In plain English, the food (which is called “pomana”) is for the soul of the dead but a real person is going to eat it. For a Romanian, that’s just fine, but a foreigner might freak-out thinking that he has to impersonate the body of a dead person.
    If you are really interested in this subject, you should read some Romanian ethnology&folklore books / articles. Here is something to start with (it’s not my paper):

    Click to access BEJINARIU_CORINA_EN.pdf


  2. Actually “porunca” is translated as “order”. In many fairytales the king “porunceste” to someone or for something to happen. And it doesn’t order it in writing.


  3. from the trailer this does not seem “to bring to light something more truthful than the misconceptions perpetuated by the pop culture machine.”…..


    1. @Lavinia

      I should say that I am one of the filmmakers, so obviously I am biased, but I might also be able to bring some behind-the-scenes info on the film that is not obvious from just watching the trailer.

      I think of Twilight or True Blood when I think of “vampire” movies that have been popular in the wider culture. You won’t see any sexy vampires, engaged in soap opera plots, with machine guns in this film.

      We spent seven/eight months in Romania. I learned a good deal of the language and spent a lot of time listening to stories. We actually shot about 42 hours of footage for the film, which ended up at 79 minutes.

      The film is in Romanian with English subtitles (not a good choice if you are only concerned with mass appeal). We decided not to even translate “strigoi” as vampire for the subtitles, since we felt like this would not convey the best meaning, though we do use the word vampire sometimes when discussing the movie with Americans.

      We made decisions based on what we thought was sound artistically and to best convey the stories of people who often don’t get their voices heard. We shaped the film, so that we did not provide interpretation of the stories, because we wanted people from Romania to share their thoughts their own way, without our opinions hovering over the various narratives. Frankly, I don’t know of any other full-length film that has actually involved going to Romania to gather these stories.

      I understand that some of the images in the trailer might seem provocative, but that is the nature of a trailer. It is supposed to get people interested in hopes that they will explore the subject further. It is also pretty difficult to make a trailer for a documentary that is subtitled, so the image has to take over.

      Anyway, I hope you will take a few minutes to visit the site and look further into what the film is about. Thanks for the feedback. Multumesc.

      –Justin Blair


      1. well….it still shows some traditions that a westerner will not fully understand and will laugh at…so our traditions are better in our own country. Ever since I’ve started going to the university in UK i had to battle this vision that we are somehow retarded people because we believe in God and so on…you get my point.


      2. I haven’t seen the film itself, and I can only speculate. If this is closer to Kobayashi’s “Kwaidan” (great Japanese ghost stories, by the way) than anything that’s made after Bram Stoker’s novel, it’s all good in my book.


  4. To a native speaker it doesn’t really have a military feel, but a medieval feel. A Voievod would give “porunci” to his subjects that they must obey. Sacred task.


    1. I finally realized that the right word in English for “porunca” would be DECREE. That has all the sacred/noble connotations. Thanks to you and all who helped me understand the nuances!


      1. “Decretul a dus la slabirea invatamintului

        Efectele dublarii numarului de nasteri nu au fost percepute imediat, ci in momentul in care generatiile “decreteilor” au intrat in sistem si s-a constatat ca nu sint suficiente scoli, licee, facultati sau locuri de munca. “Statul comunist nu a luat in calcul efectele dramatice, dublarea asta a insemnat o dublare a numarului de elevi”, a spus Alfred Bulai.

        Pentru ca numarul de scoli sau de profesori nu s-a putut dubla, elevii invatau in schimburi, pina la patru pe zi, orele se micsorasera si profesorii, mai ales cei din mediul rural, erau din ce in ce mai slab pregatiti. “Asa a inceput deprecierea sistemului de invatamint, care se simte zece ani mai tirziu”, a adaugat el.” <- uite cu asta nu-s deacord….situatia actuala o demonstreaza, s-a micsorat nr copiilor dar invatamantul continua sa fie din ce in ce mai prost….


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