The fall of communism doesn't only mean political freedom. Arts communities are also flourishing -- particularly the film industry, which, for so long, was vehemently censored.

This week, the American Film Institute is presenting "Romania off the Shelf," a collection of previously unreleased films -- films that the Ceausescu regime deemed dangerous and shelved, many for several years.

"Ceausescu didn't really let people make contemporary stories," says AFI programmer Eddie Cockrell, curator of the festival. "They could only make fantasies or stories on historical figures. But the filmmakers coded things into the films -- like, they'd make a medieval fantasy about an awful king who is overthrown by the people. You don't have to be a film school student to figure that one out."

Cockrell would visit Bucharest every year after attending the Berlin Film Festival. Each time he would ask officials at the state film office if he could see the highly regarded "Carnival Days," the festival's comedy, and, he says, "they always came up with some excuse. They couldn't find it or whatever. You read between the lines and know that the film has been banned."

This year, when he walked into the office, the film canisters were sitting on the desk. "They all looked so proud," he says, "finally being able to present this film."

The festival will include Lucian Pintilie's small-town farce "Carnival Days"; "The Secret of the Secret Weapon," by one of Romania's premier filmmakers, Alexandru Tatos, which tells of an evil emperor with a vicious secret weapon he uses on his people; Cristiana Nicolae's "The Inn Among the Hills," which is filled with black magic and tales of the occult and was therefore banned because, says Cockrell, "the Ceausescus were very superstitious"; and Dan Pita's philosophical thriller "Sand Cliffs."

The film festival runs through Sept. 27. Tickets are $5 for AFI members, $6 for nonmembers. For schedule times, call 785-4600.