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  Dr. Marian TUTUI, film researcher, curator of the Romanian Film Archive
BALKAN CINEMA VERSUS CINEMA OF THE BALKAN NATIONS 2. Manakia Bros: Pioneers of Balkan Cinema, Claimed by Six Nations

Extract from the book "ORIENT EXPRESS The Romanian and Balkan cinema" Marian Tutui, NOI Media Print 2011

In Romania’s capital we found out that in France and
England they sell cameras rendering “living” photos.
Ienache already could not get rid of the desire to return to
Bitola with a shooting camera. Even in his sleep was
longing for it. While I returned home, he went to London
where he purchased a Bioscope camera. 

                                                                Milton Manakia

The Vlach (Aromanian) brothers Ienache and Miltiade Manakia represent the most eloquent example of filmmakers that belong to the Balkan cultural heritage as the attempt to establish their affiliation to one or another national cinema is foredoomed to failure. They are considered as the first Balkan filmmakers as they had shot several important films for no less than six Balkan nations. Also for the impressive number of photos they made and mainly for their importance they remain as the most important photographers in the Balkans. Ienache had a photographic activity of at least 41 years while Milton of 65 years, quite impossible to match with. They also shot films between 1907- 1912 and owned an open cinema and a cinema theatre between 1921- 1939. Unfortunately their work is almost unknown in Romania and although they considered themselves as Romanians, Yugoslavia, Greece, R.Macedonia, Turkey and Albania have been claiming them in the last decades.

Ienache (Ion, Ianakis), the elder brother (1878-1954) and Milton (Miltiade), the younger one (1882- 1964), were born in nowadays Northern Greece at Avdella in the Pindus Mountains, a region that until 1912 was part of the Ottoman Empire. The two brothers began to work together in 1898. Ienache had opened a photo studio at Yoannina, in Epirus, where he worked also as a teacher for calligraphy and drawing at the Romanian gymnasium. They had to leave Yoannina in 1905 after Ienache had been involved in a scandal at Vouvousa (Băiasa) when the Hellenophile Vlachs disturbed the first Easter sermon in Romanian for the Vlachs. In 1905 the village Avdella, the birthplace of the two brothers, was entirely burnt down while the priest and two other inhabitants were killed by the Greek Antartes in order to punish the pro- Romanian attitude of the inhabitants. In 1905 the two brothers at Bitola (Monastir), in Macedonia where they opened together the “Studio for Art and Photography” which later became famous. Ienache continued his career as a teacher at the local Romanian gymnasium until 1916 when the Serbian authorities closed the “foreign schools”, as Bitola had become part of Serbia. In 1905, with the occasion of their first journey to Istanbul they could make photos to several officials, including the future sultan Mehmed Reshad V (1909- 1918). The participation at the 1906 International Exhibition in Bucharest brought to Manakia brothers not only two golden and one silver medal for photographic skills but also other opportunities. They became official photographers of the Romanian Royal Court in 1906, of the Turkish sultan in 1911 and of Serbian king Alexander Karageorgević in 1929. Also in 1906, after a visit to Peleş Castle, Ienache received a grant from Carol I and he could travel to Vienna, Paris and London. Milton recollected that during this trip Ienache purchased the Bioscope camera no.300 from Charles Urban & Co. A financial success followed so that the two brothers began to shoot films and even to make photos from pure artistic and scientific interest. Thus, during the next one they made their first film, Domestic Life with the Vlach Women in the Pindus/ Viaţa casnică la aromâncele din Pind in Avdella, when they immortalized their centennial grandmother spinning wool together with her daughters and granddaughters. A modest beginning seeming to keep in time a family scene but also was announcing through its title the later genuine epoch and ethnographic documents. And what an epoch: the anti- Ottoman uprisings on St.Ilya Day, the Young Turk Revolution, the Balkan and world wars that lead to Macedonia’s division, the Vlachs’ decline and the consolidation of the Balkan nations...

Not only their artistic career, but also their life has been deeply influenced by the stormy changes in the Balkan Peninsula. During WW1 their studio was destroyed and the occupation Bulgarian authorities sent Ienache in a prison camp in Plovdiv. The reason was that they had found some photos with military objectives and weapons in the house. Ienache fitted out a new studio in Plovdiv and continued to work there between 1917- 1918. In 1921, after the activity of the Romanian gymnasium had been suspended, the two brothers opened an open cinema and in 1923 they built their own cinema theatre with 574 seats but they could not enjoy it too much as the economic recession could be felt and they had to mortgage it and finally to lose it after a fire in 1939. For this reason they had to part in 1939 or 1943. Milton stayed in Bitola and kept the studio while Ienache moved to Thessalonica in order to teach and the local Romanian commercial high- school. The two brothers could not see each other anymore as WW2 followed, the civil war in Greece, as well as the cold war. Milton had become a citizen of communist Yugoslavia while Ienache a Greek citizen. Milton continued to make photos until 1963 (with one year before his death he had photographed the effects of the earthquake!) and enjoyed a tardy recognition. He received an award and a film was dedicated to him during his life (Camera 300, 1958, d. Branko Ranitović), as well as a stamp immediately after his death. Ienache closed his eyes forever after a brain hemorrhage with a feeling of being useless after his forced pensioning after the Romanian schools were closed and after the death of his only son.


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