His telephone surprised me deeply. Whatever opinion Andrei once made you, it’s impossible not to admire him. I had the chance of meeting him outside the faculty walls and my decision of taking him an interview about the 11th edition of OWR came naturally, for he is not only, starting this year, the co-director of the festival, but mostly because Andrei is a man whose passion and earnest should be discovered beyond those faculty walls.
This is your first year as a director of the festival and given that, probably the hardest one. How were the last months for you? Have you encountered any difficulties while working on the 11th edition of OWR?
First two months were a try-out, we agreed we will see how this works, mostly because I have a different background with no connection whatsoever with human’s rights. There were lots of challenges, from the beginning, when I had to accommodate within this team – where half of the members were missing, to the films selection stage. I had this ambition, to make One World a bigger, wider festival – last year there were seven days of it and fewer locations, this year we have ten days and with about four locations more. Furthermore, I really wanted to exploit this second part of the festival, which is the human rights – it’s a documentary and human rights festival after all. For me, this meant developing some other types of events besides debates and screenings. So alongside my team members, we came with these special formats, such as the ‘Living Library’ within the LGBT section, or Cosmin Bumbut and Elena Stancu’s photography exhibition on domestic violence – both have a different type of impact on people.
Logistically speaking, how much does it take to organize a ten days festival and which stage comes with the most challenges?
I couldn’t tell how much it takes to organize such an event because I joined the team pretty late. From my point of view, the preparations for this edition started later than they should’ve, we worked a lot in the last weeks to make it through and offer everyone a (hopefully) good experience. The films’ selection is the one I remember most because I was actively involved in it. There were five months of constantly searching for films, establishing connections with the film distributors, watching all those films – about 1000, and having long discussions with the pre-selection committee. Next stages intertwine so it would be difficult to tell, but they all came with challenges.
After a closer look at this year’s festival schedule, I could notice the way it treats both past and present, from a 100% realistic perspective, nothing embellished. It seems the aim of the 2018’s edition of OWR is to suck people out of their bubble – where it’s easy to ignore or deny what’s happening in the world.
I wouldn’t put it quite like that. Not all films are about the ugliness of life, a lot of them present people that want to change the world, or parts of it. After all, what does ‘human rights’ mean? Not just big causes, I think, like reforming justice. It also means being responsive to other people’s needs through small gestures. I think this type of festival should give people from different social, religious or political backgrounds, the chance to interact with each other and communicate, finding out what each other needs. That’s basically what we meant by ‘sucking people out of their bubble’.
What are your favourite events this year? And recommendations.
John Mekas’ film – ‘As I was moving ahead occasionally I saw brief glimpses of beauty’, which is a film from 2000 made out of personal films. It lasts five hours and it will be screened on 16mm, something very rare these days – at MNAC, on the 20th of March. It’s a film I deeply care about. Another event is the whole section focusing on the year 1968, which is composed of three debates and films. For me 1968 matters because it is the first time student’s unions, all over the world, raise their voices revolutionizing society. The question is, how relevant are society and change for today’s students, as theoretically at least, they are the ones with the time and eagerness to research and find answers?
Yesterday there were some interesting debates on audio-visual archives, with Bill Morrison, Peter Forgacs and Dana Bunescu and the second one with Stefanie Eckert, Oksana Sarkisova and Michael Loebenstein. I know you’re very concerned about archives and the situation in our country isn’t of interest, even though it’s not a happy one. Could you tell me more about the actual situation of the Romanian Archives?
There are two types of problems here: on one hand, there’s the National Archive, which is poorly budgeted and structured, and for a long time it was poorly coordinated, too. On the other hand are the amateur archives, television’s archives, personal ones or any other sort. None of them is protected or stocked because there is no law or institution for them. The National Archive could take them by law but it doesn’t have enough space or people to preserve them. These problems aren’t even brought up by the people and institutions of justice, such as ministries or politicians. I think it’s important to raise the problem and keep pushing forward, otherwise we can’t reach any results for this matter.
How much can films change the society we live in today?
It changes it already. The so-called mainstream art and entertainment have the most visibility so it also has the most power to change society. If we talk about particular initiatives, such as this festival, I think it can only be part of the change if it makes people engage in various social causes and helps them stay documented.
Can you share a special moment you had during this edition’s preparations?
There actually was a very special moment for me, when I wrote to John Mekas, initially on an old e-mail address found on his website, where no one answered for three weeks. That’s when I decided to call the Anthology Film Archive, in New York, which I knew it was founded by him a long time ago. A robot answered and said something like “press “X” for John Mekas’ assistant” and that’s how I talked with his assistant and told him about the festival. He gave me Mekas’ e-mail address and I remember spending a few days composing this letter for him, with one of my colleagues. Ten minutes after we sent the e-mail he responded, saying he won’t attend but he sends his films, if we still want. Being a big fan of Mekas, it was a special moment for me.
What turns a film festival into a quality one?
First of all, the coherence of the selection, I think there should be a concept guiding the sections. And secondly, its mission.
Interview by Laura Mușat
photo: One World Romania