It is said that in Gottlob, a commune located in the Timiş county on the road that connects Timişoara and Cenad, one out of ten villagers makes a living by growing watermelon, known under the name of “lubeniţă” in this part of the country. More so, the Gottlob watermelon’s notoriety has spread out so much that it ended up as a registered brand and it lead to the organization of an annual festival dedicated to this fruit.
However, soon, in this commune of the Banat area, a national premier will take place: the first rural area cinema will be inaugurated. But few know that, actually, in Gottlob there is a film tradition more than 100 years old.
Between 1745 and 1748, the lessee Iosif Malentiu of Vizejdia brings into the heart of the future village a few Catholic Bulgarian families. But Gottlob is only founded between 1771 and 1773 by the Hildebrandt councilman. At the time it was just a settlement of 203 houses, occupied by German colonists who came from Alsace and Lorena. 1)Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;
In the German language, “Gottlob” means “Praise God”. According to the legend, the first colonists came around these lands during a torrential storm, that, as by miracle, stopped right after their arrival into the future village’s abode. Happy about what had just happend, they raised their hands towards the sky and yelled: “Gott lob!”. 2)Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob; In the 19th century, the village was also known under the name of Kisősz. .3)Ioan Haţegan – Dicţionar istoric al aşezărilor din Banat: sec. XI – XX. Atestări documentare şi cartografice, Editura ArtPress, Editura Banatul, Timişoara, 2013;
Ever since 1771 there was a school in Gottlob. Since 1781, the Gottlob estate enters the possession of the Baron Lipthay Anton of Lovrin, the representative of an old noble family. In 1836, a cholera epidemic creates havoc among the villagers. The Roman-Catholic Church is built between 1866 and 1867, out of the local’s donations. 4)Samu Borovszky – Magyarország Vármegyéi és Városai. Encziklopédiája: Torontal Vármegye, Budapesta, 1912; In 1880, the streets of Gottlob were petrol illuminated. 5)Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;
In 1912, Gottlob was described as a large village, located along the Kikinda-Arad railway. It had 590 houses and 2199 locals, most of them of German origin and Roman-Catholic faith. Inside the village there was also an economy bank and a burning brick installation. .6)Samu Borovszky – Magyarország Vármegyéi és Városai. Encziklopédiája: Torontal Vármegye, Budapesta, 1912; Also in 1912, the streets of Gottlob were electrically illuminated. 7)Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;
In 1936, the village had a primary school, a male choir, a mixt choir, three brass bands, a roof tile factory, mill, keeping house, agricultural meeting, sport society, firemen society, hero monument, 626 houses and 1969 villagers. In 1949, the community center is inaugurated. Since 2004, the Gottlob commune is born, after it separates from the Lovrin commune. The first edition of the Watermelon Festival took place in 2009. 8)Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;
Gottlob, a village once occupied only by Germans
Until 1940, the Gottlob population was composed out of a overwhelming German majority. After the Second World War, the ethnic composition of the village changed radically. Between 1951 and 1956, 310 people from Gottlob were deported to Bărăgan, out of which at least 9 never returned. 9)Wikipedia – Gottlob;
In 1977, the German numbers was already down to 38% (from 90% in 1910). In 1991, due to the mass emigration waves that came after 1989, in Gottlob there were only 160 Germans left. In 1998, their number drops down to 98. It is said that, during this period, the situation was so critical that only one in three houses was still occupied in the village. According to the 2011 recession, 86% of the commune ethnic structure is represented by Romanians. Today, only 88 Germans still live in the Gottlob village. 10)Wikipedia – Gottlob;
Among them there is also Hilda Parejo-Menendez. Born Tunner, in 1938, she survived the Bărăgan deportations. “I was in Bărăgan, in Feteşti, in Ialomiţa. I even know the Bărăgan songs. I was with my family in Bărăgan. Tunner Nicolae and Otilia. My mother was brought to Banat from the USSR, as a child. She was born near the Prut river and brought here around the time she was seven. For this fortune they took her. But it wasn’t hers, it belonged to my grandparents. Then they saw that they were wrong, that she was a Russian. And they sent her back, but she still lived there for five years (in Bărăgan), until it was all clear.”
Hilda left for Germany in 1982, but she came back in România in 1992. “I had parents here. My mom was paralyzed. 13 years she was bedridden. And I came home and took care of her. Now, I have two citizenships. I am repatriated.” The house in which Hilda lives is over 100 years old. “In this house there lived an Otta Adam, an Otta Hanz, Reiser Hanz. A Tunner Adam lived here.”
“I speak 11 languages. French, English, Greek, Russian, Hungarian, German, Spanish, Italian, anything you want! For 28 years I worked as a translator. I worked at NAVROM, in Constanţa. I would translate everything, even documents. I’m the Jack of all trades. I’m international”, tells us Hilda, laughing. “There (at NAVROM), as soon as a ship came, another one would leave. They didn’t knew how to get along. <<Where’s the German lady? Bring her over!>> I was the German lady. My husband’s name is Alvaro Parejo. I met him at NAVROM. That’s my name now. We were wed, but we broke up. I left him. We divorced, because he said that he didn’t want to come to the country, here. He wanted to stay in the city.”
Despite her old age, Hilda has a young spirit and a rare optimism. “77 years and my mind still functions. My feet don’t. I was a motorcyclist for a lot of years and I had lots of accidents. I have prostheses in both my legs. I went through 14 interventions. But, I’m not done. I’m not giving up! Look, I whitewashed there, today. But, after that, the heat was too much and I came back inside, because my blood pressure was too high”, says Hilda to us.
A “mozi” tradition in Gottlob
Even since 1912, in Gottlob there have been silent film projections organized. In 1933, the projections were interrupted. In 1952, a house of Gottlob was altered and transformed into a 260 seat cinema, belonging to the RADEF (The Autonomous Films Distribution and Exploitation Administration). 11)Ştefan Both/ ADEVĂRUL – Popcorn în împărăţia lubeniţei: singurul cinematograf de la ţară din România este gata de inaugurare la Gottlob, comuna pepenelui roşu, 20 iulie 2015, Timişoara.
The cinema or “at mozi”, as the Gottlob locals used to call it, functioned until around 1978, when it was closed. Today, on the 25th of July, after renovation works, the Gottlob cinema is reopened, being the first one in a rural area. More so, the great Gottlob mozi inauguration will take place during the second edition of Ceau, Cinema!, an independent movie festival, founded by a team of youths from Timisoara.
I was an operator, she was a cashier.
Mircea Bara, age 80, worked at the Gottlob mozi between 1952 and 1974. “I was an operator, she (the wife) was a cashier. The cinema existed since ‘52. It was a home there. It got altered and, at the end of the year, it was open (the cinema). I started with a 300 lei salary. I was an apprentice. Then, I went to the army. When I got back from the army, in 1959, they put me in charge, because they didn’t have an operator, only an aid and a cashier. So, I took the role, until the normal tape (of 35mm) was discontinued. After that, I worked as an operator until 1974. After I left the cinema, I moved on to grunt work and became a tractorist until retirement.”
Mircea Bara has lived in Gottlob since 1945. “I came with my family here, from Brasov. They bombed us in ‘44. The factories were turned to dust! My father worked in a factory. The bomb fell right on our house. We came here with the clothes on our back. I was 10 back then. When I was about to finish the second grade, we had to leave.”
His house in Gottlob was built by Germans, in 1910. “The houses of the germans that ran along with the German army were taken and sold to those who came in their place. We have paid rent here until the ‘60s. The old patron was a baron; landowners they were called and each had around 150 hectares of land. He had 6 houses. Ow, this was a small one, but he had other bigger ones! He would ride in a 4 horse carriage, with 4 grey or black horses. He would go out on the field to see his workers. Schmidt was his name. He was called Landowner Hanz. His daughter was named Schmidt Margareta. Medi. They used to live there, the land around their house wasn’t even paved. He said that he didn’t even want to pave it unless it was with paper money and it was layed sideways”, remembers mister Mircea, laughing.
I’d rather not have been at the cinema, because now, with all of those that came around… For nothing. Just for a bottle!
Generations have passed and, with time, people have forgotten that Mircea Bara was once an operator at the Gottlob mozi. However, a few years ago, the people that started the renovation works at the cinema got a surprise. This is also when, suddenly, all the attention turned towards mister Bara.
“Our hall (from the Gottlob cinema) was a little small, not tall enough. We couldn’t lift the screen because of the roof. And what did we do: from the middle of the room, we took the floor apart, because where we would go in, from the hallway, there was a step. <<What are we doing? Let’s take make the floor equal so this step doesn’t disappear.>> Before finishing the work, the guys (Mr. Bara’s coworkers) said: <<Let’s take a bottle and put a note in it with the date and the names of those who worked on this.>> This happened between 1966 and 1967. And, now, with this new renovation, when they took out the old floor, they ran into the bottle. They took the note out and they read it. I was on it. And now, everyone comes looking for me so I can tell them the story. I rather not have been at the cinema, because now, with all those that came around… For nothing. Just for a bottle!”
And how it looked on screen was that the train was coming… Until it passed, everyone in the hall kept screaming!
Mister Bara doesn’t precisely remember every movie that was played in the Gottlob cinema. But he said that “in any case, Indian movies were in first place. Just like now. And just like them were the foreign movies, American ones. Russian movies were just starting to emerge and they were in popular demand. The Romanian movies were more like now and then. When the Romanian movies came, everyone would look on the posters, because they were huge, 2m x 1m. It was nicely organized. We had speakers outside, in the Summer Garden. When Awaara started, we turned on the station. You could hear everything. We had a Summer Garden. In the village, it was almost the prettiest one.”
“We had around 400 spectators. When we had A Night to Remember we had four shows. They even came from Vizejdia (the neighbouring village). We showed that movie for two or three days. People were asking for it again and again. We had to run it again even at 2:00 in the morning. There was a family, both of them old, almost the oldest in the village. Both of them could barely hear. They couldn’t hear but they kept saying <<We’re coming back! We’ll be back!>>”, remembers misses Bara, once a cashier at the cinema. “There were good movies. I can’t say there weren’t. The Romanians also had fun movies, comedies. Even now they sometimes show them on television.”
“When the cinema opened, in ‘52, I remember. I won’t forget that night. The hall was full! I think there were over 400 people in a hall with 246 numbered seats. People were in the hallways, everywhere. I had a Soviet movie back then, in which a train locomotive was going on tracks. And how it looked on screen was that the train was coming… Until it passed, everyone in the hall kept screaming. I said: <<These folks haven’t seen a movie in their lives!>>”, tells us mister Mircea, among breaks of laughter.
“The movies would run every day. There was no day off. Continuously! We would take time off, one at a time, a day a week. We worked from Thursday to Sunday and from Monday to Wednesday. Around two movies a week. We would run around two shows every evening, depending on the movie. We would run morning shows for kids. They would come from school, around 3 or 4 classes (of children) walking in columns, along with their class master. On Red Cross day we would organize symposiums. It was beautiful, yes!”
Too many televisions!
During the Communist regime, a mozi ticket would cost between 1 and 1.5 lei. “It was accessible. But we had to do 6000 lei a month for our work plan. Even 7000. It didn’t always go well. So we would come up with a trick. If the neighbouring commune had a better movie than us, we would borrow it for one evening. We would put on a two show night and we would sell two tickets instead of one. We had to make the work plan! If the plan wasn’t accomplished, we would receive critiques and we didn’t get a prize.”
“When I would notice that the plan would not grow, we would go to the C.A.P. << Mister mayor, please buy 100 tickets. Will you help? >> He would buy that month, but the next one, nothing. Then I would go to the OSMT to beg. If the tickets ended up to the workers, I don’t know. But, this was another way through which I could cover the work plan.”
“I had four projection systems: two in the Summer Garden and two in the hall. After that, it kept going down, because the people stopped coming and they took two of them away. Then, with time, we started doing worse and worse. We were left with the narrow tape. But, it came to an end, so I left. The cinema functioned for another 3 or 4 years after we left, until about 1978. The machines were taken by the cinematic state institution. It had its headquarters around the Modern neighbourhood of Timisoara. The studio of the institution was in the Balcescu Square.”
Mircea Bara claims that the popularity of television has determined him to give up his workplace at the cinema. “The televisions came. That’s why I left in ‘74! Before, when it started (when the Gottlob cinema opened), they (the people) would come because there were no televisions. But, since these started to appear, around 1957-1958, in the village… There was one television in the entire commune. Only the priest had one. Everyone would go to him. It was a miracle. Now, in Gottlob there are even houses with 3 televisions. And they all work!”, he laughs. “Every person has one. There are as many televisions as there are kids.”
“It was nice, it was nicer before than it is now. The people have changed. This world has changed. It was so welcoming before, they would come to the movies. I would watch from here (in front of the house), I would go out into the street. Lots of people. <<Let’s go ‘cause they’re waiting for us!>> We had to go an hour before, in order to sell tickets.”
Mister Bara is pessimistic regarding the newly renovated Gottlob cinema. “It’s a beautiful hall, really. They did a nice job. As the mayor said, it’s also a showroom (it is said that there will also be a moving stage), a conference hall etc. But I don’t think that it will work, especially being in the countryside. Not so many young people. They are all gone, especially to Germany, outside the country. Too many televisions. And the children, have you seen what they like now? My god. Movies that aren’t educational at all. The people are way too open now!”
Ceau, Cinema!, an independent movie festival at Gottlob
Ceau, Cinema!, organized by Marele Ecran and Pelicula Culturala, has started in 2014, with a pilot edition that had 4 full days of projections and workshops in Timisoara and Gottlob. For the second consecutive year, the festival also includes the village of Gottlob as a location. More so, today, at 18:00, the new cinema of this Banat commune will be inaugurated. Not at all as a coincidence, the first movie that is going to be played at the big opening will be Paşaport de Germania (German Passport). Directed by Răzvan Georgescu, this movie tells the story of the most amplified trade of people in the 20th century Europe: a systematic and organized sale of the entire german population of Romania to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Being curious as to why this commune from the Banat area was chosen as a location for the festival, Lucian Mircu, the Ceau, Cinema! festival director, told us: “Because a commune from Timiș is renovating its cinema, instead of making place for a bar or an ABC, how it has happened in the rest of the country. Because this can be a model for the rural part of Romania and for the big cities, who did not manage this performance. And, why lie about it, for the watermelon!”
Regarding the success that this first rural cinema of the country could have, Lucian Mircu says that: “Certainly, it will not be easy. It will require a lot of determination and perseverence from the local authorities. Support from the <<center>> and a specialized person who can take care of the cinema. It can have success only if it will offer a regular weekly cinema program. If it will get the youngsters heads out of their tablets and TVs and in front of the big screen. Otherwise, it will only be a miracle that will last for two days, the time we are going to keep the festival at Gottlob.”
“The success also depends on the support of the cultural partners (such as the German Cultural Center or the French Institute), of some distributors that have educative projects (the Macondo Association, for example) and that can offer movies. Because, otherwise, it is very complicated to sustain the movie acquisition in an independent cinema regime with the small budget of a commune. Of course, we will do our part. Directors such as Cristian Mungiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Tudor Giurgiu and Razvan Georgescu have already offered their support in one way or another.”
The second edition of Ceau, Cinema! has started Wednesday, 22nd of July and it will end tomorrow, 26th of July. The full schedule for the Gottlob projections (as well as those of Timisoara) are found on the festival’s website.
From Timisoara, to Gottlob you can get by following the DN6 or DN59A (see map), the commune being about 50 km away. If you make it to this area, we recommend also to buy Gottlob watermelon. The locals usually sell their products on the side of the road. The Gottlob Watermelon Festival will take place between 15 and 16 of August 2015.
Until you reach Gottlob: in Biled, another village in which many German ethnics once lived, you can notice several Swabian houses, located along the main road. This type of houses can also be noticed in Lovrin, the same place where you can see the Lipthay mansion, today turned into an agricultural research and development station. Also, still in Lovrin there is also a small thermal water public pool.
Article written by Alexandra Palconi. Translated by Doiniţa Spuză.
Photo Credits: Flavius Neamciuc
|↲1||Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;|
|↲2||Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;|
|↲3||Ioan Haţegan – Dicţionar istoric al aşezărilor din Banat: sec. XI – XX. Atestări documentare şi cartografice, Editura ArtPress, Editura Banatul, Timişoara, 2013;|
|↲4||Samu Borovszky – Magyarország Vármegyéi és Városai. Encziklopédiája: Torontal Vármegye, Budapesta, 1912;|
|↲5||Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;|
|↲6||Samu Borovszky – Magyarország Vármegyéi és Városai. Encziklopédiája: Torontal Vármegye, Budapesta, 1912;|
|↲7||Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;|
|↲8||Consiliul Judeţean Timiş – Gottlob;|
|↲9||Wikipedia – Gottlob;|
|↲10||Wikipedia – Gottlob;|
|↲11||Ştefan Both/ ADEVĂRUL – Popcorn în împărăţia lubeniţei: singurul cinematograf de la ţară din România este gata de inaugurare la Gottlob, comuna pepenelui roşu, 20 iulie 2015, Timişoara.|