Think Freedom
Think Freedom: The Catalyst

Premiere of the Documentary Portrait of Radu Vancu from Romania
Think Freedom: The Catalyst,  Quotes from Radu Vancu, Romania
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Discover the inspiring story of an intellectual, poet, scholar and activist at the forefront of literature, civic activism and the fight for rule of law in Romania.  Meet Radu Vancu from Sibiu in the intimate documentary portrait ‘Think Freedom: The Catalyst’.

Watch Think Freedom: The Catalyst

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The story of the documentary revolves around the protests “Va Vedem din Sibiu” ("We see you/ we are watching you from Sibiu") and one of their key figures –Radu Vancu. For 669 days in a row, rain or snow, accompanied by the midday bells of the neighbouring church, people would come out and stand in silence, facing the windows of the party trying to destroy the Romanian laws of justice. The symbol of the protest became pair of eyes, designed and drawn by a local artist, in black and white to represent the clear division of right and wrong that the people envisioned would be replicated in their justice system.

Despite their dedication, five years later protest leaders grapple with doubt and disappointment, as democracy in Romania is still far from the ideal they were fighting for. An unlikely optimist, Radu is the only one who believes the protest has won. In all fights for a better world, when reality is cynical and change – painfully slow, what can keep the fire burning? Sometimes you need a poet to give you the answer. 

Through the power of words and literature, Radu Vancu manages to reach out to many hearts and minds of people in his different roles of an intellectual, poet, writer, essayist and translator.  He is also a doctoral lecturer at the Faculty of Letters of "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu and editor of the magazines Transilvania and Poesis International. He coordinates the literary section of Timpul magazine and is President of PEN Romania. In January 2024, Radu won the Poetry Book of the Year Award 2023 at the 14th edition of the Young Writers Gala for his work "Kaddish", published by Max Blecher Publishing House in Bucharest.


The documentary portrait is part of “Think Freedom” documentary series of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. It embodies the core liberal principles of freedom, choice and responsibility. The overarching theme is the main characters‘ self-determination to pursue freedom by overcoming challenges in the shrinking spaces of their democracies.

Our heroes are inspiring freedom ambassadors and liberal multipliers from all walks of life from activism, civil society, politics, law, arts, and more. So far, we have featured characters with a focus on East and Southeast Europe from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Germany.

The Creative Team: Film Director

The Director: This film, alongside with many other episodes of Think Freedom, is directed by Anna Stoeva, a documentary artist, producer and filmmaker. She has worked on a number of international documentary features, including The Last Black Sea Pirates (HotDocs 2013, FIPRESCI Award Krakow 2013), Dad Made Dirty Movies (premiere at Visions du Reel 2011) and Paradise Hotel (HBO Bulgaria Original Programming). She is the producer of the short films Red Light and Getting Fat In A Healthy Way, which have gathered 45 international awards and have travelled over 100 festivals to date, and the co-creator and head writer of the German mystery horror series HAUSEN (Sky Deutschland 2020). In the last 10 years with her production company Tanuki films she has worked on a number of documentary and online projects, finding the intersection between documentary art and social causes with meaning.


Burnout is a very common thing among activists, we talk about it a lot in the Think Freedom series. I can name a hundred reasons why people give up, all of them very valid. The prompts the world gives you to be disillusioned are right there in your face. Hope and perseverance, however, are another matter. I find people who have them, against all odds, incredibly inspiring. Radu Vancu is one of those people. And his hope is not just positivism for its own sake – he has this filter on reality, a blend of looking deep and remembering the bigger picture that makes hope the only logical answer.”

Anna Stoeva
Anna Stoeva, Film Director, Tanuki Films, Bulgaria


The Producer: Tanuki films is an award-winning boutique production team focused on documentary filmmaking, journalism and interactive storytelling. ‘Think Freedom’ series is a successful creative collaboration between Tanuki and FNF. Since their founding in 2011, tanuki have created and worked on a number of documentary campaigns, investigative journalism segments, advertising and film projects. Tanuki work with a team of visual storytellers with a wealth of experience and a passion for cinema, which they transform to serve the social and brand stories they tell. After winning the 2015 Open Data Expo Hackathon, their latest passion is data journalism and particularly stories that combine data visualization with documentary storytelling. 


“If you are an activist, a protester, or just someone on the fence whether fighting for values is really worth it in this day and age - I think we managed to make a film that will give you a good reason to keep going.”

Anna Stoeva
Anna Stoeva, Film Director, Tanuki Films, Bulgaria

Director of Photography

Director of Photography: Carmen Tofeni is a cinematographer and documentary filmmaker who approaches her work with a strong sense of responsibility, ensuring the narrative and emotional arc of the story are thoughtfully captured through meaningful visuals and tailor-made camera work. This commitment runs as a common thread throughout her diverse portfolio, which includes both fiction (IVANA THE TERRIBLE, OUR SUMMER BREAK, ROUTE-3, THE EVIL EYE, THEY ARE NOBODY) and documentary films (THE LAND YOU BELONG, …AND THERE ARE THOUGHTS, BUILDING NR.6). Carmen is an alumna of the Italian National Film School, Aristoteles documentary Workshop and Berlinale and Sarajevo Talent Campuses. She was nominated Best Cinematography by the Romanian National Awards GOPO, along with the recognition of the Romanian Society of Cinematographers, RSC. In parallel, Carmen extends beyond traditional filmmaking as she experiments with camera language and framing in projects that combine dance, photography, and theater. She embraces experimentation to push the boundaries of visual storytelling, creating captivating and innovative cinematic experiences.


“Documentary-making is like shifting lenses for me, shaping both my craft and my humanity. Engaging with Radu Vancu was a revelation,  his blend of poetry and pragmatism creating a vast landscape of wisdom. True to his name, he is the catalyst that holds people together and focuses the lens on the dialogue of freedom.”

Carmen Tofeni
Carmen Tofeni, Director of Photography, Romania

We are proud that the documentary portrait was premiered at Astra Film, Sibiu International Film Festival 2023, followed up with a discussion with the main hero. Special screenings are upcoming. 

Film Poster, Think Freedom, Radu Vancu
© Anna Stoeva