By Martin Blaney | April 19, 2011
Whilst attending this year’s goEast festival, the sad news reached us that the Romanian film critic Alex Leo Şerban had passed away on April 8th at the age of 51 after battling with cancer.
Şerban was a well known and popular figure on the international festival circuit , regularly attending the festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Clermont-Ferrand and Thessaloniki and sitting on FIPRESCI juries as well as curating special film programmes and conferences at home and abroad.
Apart from writing film columns for publications as diverse as the Bucharest weekly Dilema Veche, the daily newspapers Libertatea and ID and contributing to Cahiers du Cinema and Film Comment, Leo collaborated with Stefan Balan and Mihai Chirilov on a book in 2004 about Lars von Trier, The Films, The Women, The Ghosts, which won the Romanian Film Critics Association Prize, and also wrote Why Do We Watch Films in 2006 which received the Filmmakers Union Prize for best book on cinema.
In January 2008 he was voted through a public poll on the most important domestic cinema portal www.cinemagia.ro as The Favourite Film Critic of Romanian Film Lovers. The same year had also seen him become the first beneficiary of the Grand Prize for Cultural Journalism awarded by Fundatia Timpul.
Leo also translated essays, poems, short stories and novels by authors such as W.H. Auden, Jean Baudrillard, Samuel Beckett, Paul Bowles, Don DeLillo, Benoît Duteurtre, Mathieu Lindon, Vladimir Nabokov, Susan Sontag, Paul Bowles, Yasmina Reza or Martin Sherman.
In 2009, Romanian screenwriter Anca Yvette Grădinariu wrote about Şerban: “It rarely happens for a film critic to become a star – even less in Romania, where the cinema is almost ignored (there is not a single specialized publication) – however, ALŞ became a brand.”
“He is a person of the world, a spiritual dandy, alive, funny, who loves without discrimination both the arty and the genre type film and who seems to have a very whole existence besides – one that is exciting, glamorous, which many would kill for,” she said.
Last year, Leo was one of the contributing editors to the Transilvania International Film Festival’s special publication on The New Romanian Cinema, produced in collaboration with the Romanian Cultural Institute.
In an essay on the New Romanian New Wave, he observed: “Regardless of pros and cons, for or against, one thing is certain: this ‘New Wave’ of Romanian film (which isn’t cutting any slack to Romania’s self perception) is the best export seller of all arts, and the main politician (with no political party to support it) representing our country. Fortunately, the film buffs vote for it.”
The forthcoming Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) in June is planning some events in his memory since his friendship and support towards the festival had “a huge contribution in TIFF’s emergence on the national and international stage.” Leo had been a member of the TIFF jury at its second edition in 2003 and was a beloved guest of the festival. He will be much missed by the festival and the Romanian film community.
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