On 13 February 2017, Michel Buruiana died suddenly at the age of sixty-three. He was a journalist, writer, businessman, producer, impresario and artistic advisor.
Born in Romania, Michel Buruiana was the son of an ophthalmologist and a violinist. His parents got him interested in the arts at an early age. At age nine, he appeared in Les Saisons, a film by Romanian director Savel Stiopul, which was presented in Cannes and received a prize at the Teheran Film Festival where Norman McLaren presided over the jury. A few years later, McLaren had fond memories of Stiopul’s film and agreed to receive the young 18-year-old Buruiana, newly arrived in Canada and desirous of a career in cinema, at the National Film Board.
In 1973, he joined the NFB as an assistant trainee to renowned cinematographer Thomas Vamos while studying art history at the Université de Montréal. He was also a student of journalist and cinematographic adviser Marc Gervais, an international reference on the work of Ingmar Bergman, Pier Paolo Pasolini and other great filmmakers. The collaboration between Gervais and Buruiana continued for many years, first as Gervais’s assistant, then becoming his advisor over time. Upon completing his studies, Buruiana faced difficulties entering the artistic community and began a career in the insurance industry. For almost ten years, he excelled in insurance, even ranking among the best in his profession in Canada. Despite this success, his long-standing interest in the arts and culture led him to reorient his activities and he left insurance in 1983.
Buruiana successively headed two specialized publications in cinema, namely 24 Images, which he saved from bankruptcy, and subsequently Séquences. He penned numerous articles and interviews, which earn him praise from important figures such as writers and directors Jean-Charles Tachella (Dames Galantes) and Jean-Paul Rappeneau (Cyrano de Bergerac).
In the 1980s, Buruiana was at the heart of a project to establish a professional soccer team in Montreal, the Manic, which had some success before folding due to a lack of funding. At the height of the controversy surrounding the decriminalization of abortion in Canada, he also wrote the book Abortion: Yes and No published by Éditions Humanitas in 1988. The book presents a dialogue between Dr. Henry Morgentaler and Monsignor Bertrand Blanchet, and is particularly appreciated for its measured approach, remaining to this day in the curriculum of many college- and university-level ethics and philosophy courses.
Michel Buruiana’s many cultural and artistic achievements include the creation of the Studio Théâtre de Québec in 1984 as well as the annual Prix Séquences Awards ceremony, the precursor of the Prix Iris. In 1987, Buruiana organized an exhibition on playwright Eugène Ionesco, in collaboration with Éditions Gallimard, and in 1991 he created the Veyrier Exhibition, dedicated to books on cinema, at the opening of the 15th Montreal World Film Festival. He sat on the advisory committee of the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal from 1987 to 1989 and produced a major concert directed by Marc Bélanger, featuring and launching the career of the famous accordionist Marin Nasturica. During the 1990s, he was also press secretary and advisor to several television stations of the Astral Group.
Over the years, Buruiana initiated 58 artistic events linking Quebec, Canada and Romania, the cultural exchange being one of the pillars of his social involvement. Buruiana introduced Quebec to Romania in 1992, organizing in Bucharest the largest festival of Quebec cinema ever produced abroad and inviting personalities such as Gilles Carle, Jean-Claude Labrecque, Roger Cantin, Germain Houde and Chloé Sainte-Marie to accompany him to his native country. The following year, he created seven different Canada-Romania events and, in 1994, produced the Montreal Festival in Bucharest – Canadian Presences in Romania. Buruiana organized exhibitions of works by the filmmaker Jean-Claude Labrecque and the painter Mona Mariana Ciciovan, which were presented in both Montreal and Bucharest. He also received the Spotlight on Romania, presented at UQAM in 2002, and the title of guest of honor for Quebec and Canada at the Romanian French-language Film Festival in 2005. Michel Buruiana received the Canada-Romania Medal in 2000 and was awarded the highest distinction awarded by the Romanian government, the Order of Service to the Nation, in 2003.
He has always been involved in the world of cinema, and his name can be found in the credits of some forty works, for which he worked as press attaché, producer and special advisor to production. Near the end of his life, he focused primarily on music, visual arts and film. Violinist Caroline Chehade and painter Mona Mariana Ciciovan are among his protégés, while he advised director and screenwriter Sylvain Guy (Blacklist and Machine Gun Molly), accordionist Marin Nasturica, and several producers, including Michel Mosca, Marcel Giroux and Marc Bourgeois. Pianist Marika Bournaki, bass Joseph Rouleau and filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (Blacklist and C.R.A.Z.Y.) also collaborated with him for several years. In his later years, he was an advisor to several arts organizations including the Orchestre des jeunes de Montréal, Jeunes ambassadeurs lyriques, Prix d’Europe and La Scena Musicale.
Excerpt of original article by Caroline Louis, “À l’ombre de l’artiste : survol de la carrière de Michel Buruiana,” La Scena Musicale, June 2008.
About Michel Buruiana:
“When I think of him, I remember Rudyard Kipling’s poem If: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.’”
— Danielle Blouin, philanthropist
“In addition to his ‘artists,’ Michel had his ‘proteges.’ These were young people to whom he passed on his passion for culture and the arts, of course, but also for history, politics, philosophy, and studies.”
— Sylvain Guy, filmmaker
“He taught me that there is only one thing that counts: follow your nature, follow your path …”
— Mona Ciciovan, painter
“With a dazzling intelligence, fabulous memory, exquisite elegance and charm, falling in love with him was inevitable … and staying in this state (45 years of happiness) … was sublime, and for good reason: his tenderness and devoted love, which have been revealed to cement our affection!”
– Aparecida De Almeida, his wife