Head through the Wall

A documentary-experimental film workshop in a Romanian prison

Project start:
Project completion:

Filmic field research in a Romanian prison: A prison in the small town of Botoşani in north-eastern Romania opened its doors for an unusual project – an experimental documentary film workshop. For three weeks, 20 students from the Film University and the Romanian National Theatre and Film University "I. L. Caragiale” Bucharest went behind bars. Working outside one's own "comfort zone" in documentary, finding one's role as a film team and building closeness to the protagonists was a big challenge.

"It evoked various feelings in many of us – from sympathy towards the inmates to insecurity and defenselessness. Above all, you had to actively position yourself again and again in situations where there was no clear right or wrong action. You start to reflect on the prison as an institution, on disadvantages and privileges, on interpersonal relationships and above all on your own work as a documentary filmmaker," says one of the students involved.

In addition to social intervention in a difficult environment, the workshop also explored the aesthetics of a wide variety of film techniques. The students shot with a 360 degree camera, with digital consumer and professional cameras, with a mobile phone and with a 16 mm Bolex film camera. The film material was developed on site by the students themselves, so that a direct comparison of working methods, aesthetics and effects was possible at one and the same location. Besides the aesthetic and technical questions, the workshop was also about social intervention: how do we change the place and what does it do to us when we enter the prison cells with the camera?

Insights into the background and current developments of the project are provided by the website

  • Project Lead: Prof. Susanne Schüle and Andrei Schwartz, Director
  • Contact: s.schuele(at)filmuniversitaet.de
  • In Cooperationen with: UNATC - National University of Theatre and Film “I.L.Caragiale”, Bucharest and the prison in the city Botoşani, Romania
  • Supported by: Goethe Institut Bucharest, Institute für Artistic Research (IKF)