Matei Child Miner

Not available for screening anymore

Matei Child Miner (Matei copil miner)

Directed by Alexandra Gulea

  • Romania, Germany, France 2013; 80 min
  • Original version: Romanian
  • Genre: Drama
    • Lino Micciche and Student Jury Award - Pesaro FF
    • 1st Prize - Regiofun International Festival in Poland


Matei is eleven and has a passion for studying insects. He lives with his grandfather in a mining region in Transylvania. As most of the mines have closed, his parents have gone to Italy to find work. After a fight with his grandfather, Matei runs away from home to a sheepfold in the mountains, in the hope of becoming a shepherd. Unable to stay at the sheepfold, Matei ends up in the big city, where he discovers the Natural Science Museum. It is here that he finds his vocation, and so he decides to go back home to continue his schooling. When he arrives, his grandfather is gravely ill and he has to take care of him. Coming face to face with death Matei must abruptly make the transition from being a child to becoming an adult. He comes to realise that he must follow his own path and pursue his passion.

Director's Statement

A few years ago, while filming at Bucharest’s main train station, I needed to find a child to appear in a certain shot. I began my search among the multitude of children that were living rough in the station at the time. I found a young boy (Ionel, aged nine) who had r u n a w a y f r o m h i s hometown of Petrila, in the Jiu Valley. He was the son of a mineworker and played his role with great tenacity. I followed his steps for a few years, in all the places where life took him: at an orphanage, at home in the Jiu Valley, at a centre for disabled children, in hospital while being treated for tuberculosis. Today, Ionel is eighteen and lives in Italy.
Through his eyes, I discovered the life of a lonely child in the kinds of places and circumstances he has been through. At the time, I was working in the documentary genre. Years later, when I decided that my first fiction film would tell the story of a child, I went back to the Jiu Valley to carry out research. Several newspapers had reported on kids who had committed suicide while their parents where working abroad. A boy from Uricani, the last small town in the Jiu Valley before the Carpathians, had recently committed suicide.
Uricani 2008: the location seemed (in a symptomatic way) to tell the visual story of the last fifty years in Romania: a ghetto for miners, who had once been given to understand that the economy and the prosperity of the homeland depended on their labour, and whose existence had been rendered futile after the closure of the mines. It is a deserted place whose inhabitants are mostly working abroad and whose children, looked after by neighbours or grandparents, go to school without knowing what the future holds or where they will end up. The cracked and peeling statues of miners seem to stand as the final witnesses to the existence of these former “model” societies.
While uncovering the town’s poetry in the deserted courtyards of its Stalinist housing blocks, I wanted to understand why none of these children had left home for good. So, while writing the script, I went several times to meet children, listen to stories and discover places from this region, which formerly lay on the old Austro Hungarian border. It had to be a winter to spring story, so that we could see the child growing up during the course of the film.



    Thomas Ciulei