Posts Tagged ‘astra film festival’

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Interviu cu Vlad Petri despre „La pas pe litoral” și Astra Film [docuart.ro]

31 Ianuarie 2017

Cum aţi perceput diferenţa dintre litoralul turistic şi partea de Deltă?
Zona de Deltă, unde e şi rezervaţia naturală, e total pustie, e cu totul altceva – omul primordial în legătură directă cu natura. Acolo poţi să stai noaptea pe malul marii, să faci seara un foc, să ai animale în jurul tău – eşti total izolat. Sunt zone în care nu ai semnal la telefon şi nu vezi niciun om. Poţi să stai zile-n şir și să nu întâlneşti pe nimeni. Cred că e un litoral mult mai interesant decât ăla cu umbreluţe. După o anumită zonă, deja de la Corbu încolo, e efectiv bătaie pe fiecare metru de plajă, apar umbreluţele, construcţiile; deja nu mai e aproape deloc plajă mai liberă. Mai sunt nişte bucăţi similare doar pe la Tuzla şi pe la 23 August, dar şi acelea se tot micşorează.

Interviul integral poate fi citit pe docuart.ro

Anunțuri
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„I hope that the esthetics of my film will create a counter-representation of the migrants” – Interview with Tami Liberman

7 Noiembrie 2015

One of the great people I met in Sibiu, at Astra Film Festival was Tami Liberman, an Israeli film-maker now living in Tel Aviv. Back in 2014 she was studying in Berlin where she made Napps – Memoir of an invisible man a documentary medium-length film which I think it lays somewhere between fiction and essay. Starting from here we got to talk about migrants, Israeli policy on the matter vs. European/German one and her perspectives in film industry.

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Your film was part of the student competition. It was done while you were studying in Germany, In Berlin. Did you studied film or visual anthropology?

It was a master degree in visual and media anthropology in Freie Universität. But my BA is in film, from Tel Aviv University.

What made you decide to choose this subject? Was it something you were working with before?

Actually there was no initial plan to make a movie about this theme. What happened was that I wanted to make a film about a completely other subject that would have something to do with the film I made previously – and that was about virtual homes and virtual reality. But I wanted to continue with the idea, to explore what a home is. So I walked around and looked for people that would agree to talk about it and with those that challenged the concept of home. So talking with migrants was something that I was interested in.

Because these people are not “home” anymore?

The issue of home starts to have different meanings, no doubt. And I talked to two or three guys in one of the central parks in Berlin where a lot of migrants hang out. And I think the third guy I talked with was the protagonist of my film, Mr. X. It was an immediate click, he said “Oh, I would love to talk about a project on any subject. I worked as a journalist and I’m interested in photography”. We’ve decided to make for coffee and we did, so while talking suddenly I’ve realized what his political status was and I’ve asked him “Wait, so can I show your face in the film?” and he was “No, actually I can’t, I’m sorry”. Out of that it came the idea, “then just stand behind it” and he was ok. It basically came out of the constraint itself.

I was thinking that if you wouldn’t have this constraint, there wouldn’t be any talk about your film that is a documentary which looks like a fiction. So, when you realized you couldn’t show his face, did that bothered you in a way?

The limitation was space for creativity, that’s how I felt it. And that kept the idea flowing and that turned it into a potential film. It gave its esthetic, it gave the methodology and it also gave its theme. Because I think that the film itself doesn’t deal with the details of the political situation or the political status, it deals with representation, with visual representation. A lot of questions that are reason within the film deal with that issue, with that angle of the migration – the politics of representation and the cultural experience that they impose on the people that don’t have the same rights as citizens of a certain nation/state.

This subject is very hot right now, everybody’s talking about it. In choosing it for your film did you also thought about the refuges situation? Choosing the subject was, in some way, a “marketing” decision maybe? I’m trying to understand your decisions as a director, besides what you already told me. Do you use to think about what’s “hot” in the press before starting a project?

Not in any way, no. It came disturbingly organic. I say “disturbing” because of how unfortunate it was that the idea came out of this constraint. I wasn’t an opportunist jumping in to this and saying “Hey, that will sell!”. I also think that is visually challenging and I didn’t thought that it would be a film that would sell, not necessarily.

In that case, what are your expectations with the film right now? Do you think it has a place in the festivals? Or do you think it has a certain role in solving something?

First of all, I’m completely aware of the limitations of this art, especially when you have this kind of activist approach. My wish is that it would reach some people that would find themselves raising new questions about this issue. And maybe seeing it from another perspective. Festivals are a great way to have films circulate especially when the person himself can’t. I also gave talks and lectured about the film – which I’d say, I as its creator, I gain more than the people that need to, because usually when you bring it to this kind of academic audience it kinda stays in within the academic discourse. Which is great, but also it might not be communicated to the people that must be communicated to.

So another thing that I wish to do right now is to have it screened publicly in Israel. I don’t know if it would work, I doubt it that it will be any organization that would take it on but I kinda hope to. But I ought to have some sort of public screenings with the refugee community in Israel. It’s something I started to work on.

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It’s good that you brought this up, because I don’t have much information about what’s going on with the refugees in the Israel, but I’m curious: is it the same as in Europe now or they’re applying in Israel for a work permit?

The situation is definitely not working ok. What’s happening in Israel is that we’re having approximately 45.000 asylum seekers coming from Eritrea and Sudan, they were more but a lot left.

All of them are Muslim?

The Eritrean are Christians, the Sudanese are much less, they’re mostly Muslim. They came through the southern border, the one with Egypt, and that was closed so the flow would stop. I won’t go through the whole process because they were given a temporarily working permit that allowed them to work, then it didn’t allowed them – it’s that kind of ridiculous. But a lot of them started to work in the social work sphere – like hotels, restaurants. A lot of them were also moved by the authorities to the southern part of Tel Aviv where the residents were not very happy about this decision – and I don’t blame them, it’s a complete failure of the authorities bringing a bunch of unemployed people that are very frustrated to be in a liminal state where they’re not accepted by the new culture and they also can’t go back home because of the horrendous political situation there. And since there was this frustration rising among the Israeli people there was a detention center that was built in the South part of Israel, in the desert, where 2000 refugees where brought.

So they’re actually imprisoned?

Well, the authorities would say “No, they’re not imprisoned, all they have to do is to sign once a day – it used to be twice a day – it’s just a digital signing” but basically they’re in the middle of the desert, the closest town is an hour away, and they have to sleep there, they have to spend the night, and the people that keep them in work as prison guards, that’s their official job. So it depends as you want to see it, but what is definite is that their asylum requests are not being processed. There are only four people so far that received a refugee statute.

For how long?

They started coming in 2006.

So in almost ten years only four people were officially recognized as asylum seekers or got to be integrated.

Yes! There is this kind of deal they’re offered, which is to leave willingly. Which of course we can argue about: it’s their choice, but it’s their choice after they were kept in a detention center. First they were told that it’s going to be for a few months, then 9 months, then a year and a half – it’s a situation that is not solved in any way and a policy that is not being changed so a lot of them choose to take the money that were offered by the government and then to leave to what is called “a third country”, to Uganda or Rwanda.

So back to Africa.

Yes, back to Africa, but not their home countries. The problem is that a lot of them get there with an Israeli permit, some sort of an agreement that they will have Israeli papers that is worthless there so they’re back again where they’ve started and many try to go to Europe this time.

Considering what you’ve just said do you think that the situation in Europe is a bit different than in Israel?

Israel is, with its policy, another part in an international network of indifference and neglect towards refugees, along with Australia, rich countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates that take in virtually no refugees, European countries with no-refugee policies like Hungary and others. So, if you ask me about Europe, it really depends on what country you’re talking about. Germany really opened the gates and it’s the European country that receives most of the refugees specifically from Syria. They also made a change in what’s called “The Dublin Regulation”, the agreement that most of the countries within the EU and Schengen alliance, which basically says that one person that sought asylum in one country cannot seek asylum or go to work in another country in the EU. So what Germany did was to offer an exception for the Syrian refugees so they could still seek asylum in Germany even if they did already in other countries, and that’s quite unique. But it’s true that opening the gates there doesn’t bring the same numbers of refugees that get to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan so they’re not getting that much of the total and also I think that they’re starting to freak out because the numbers are raising. First they said they would get 800.000 people and now it looks like they would get 1m and a half and also Angela Merkel is getting a lot of heat because of this and it looks like she’s losing support and votes in all sorts of poles. It’s interesting to see what is going to happen but what is clear is that Germany won’t be able to keep on with this kind of acts alone.

I think a possible explanation why they’re taking a lot of people is because of their past but I also believe that the demographics of Germany are in trouble. The population is falling in numbers and they need migrants! It’s not mentioned that much, but it’s definitely one of the reasons.

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Photostill from Napps – Memoire of an invisible man

Now, you moved back to Israel, your home country. Will you keep making movies there?

Definitely yes. Right now, the money are not coming from film-making but they come from editing, I work as an editor. I also teach and I’m slowly developing more and more projects while getting used to be back in Israel.

Are you more interested in documentary than fiction?

As it’s hard for me to label this film as documentary, I think working with video materials or visual representations would be more appropriate.

I’m still curious to find out, though, about your experience not as a migrant but rather as an expat in Germany. I’m thinking that your experience doesn’t resemble the one Mr. X is living right now. Do you feel any compassion for his story when comparing your experience to his? Also I would like to find out why did you decided to move back to Israel.

First of all, I’m always reluctant to compare my “travel” to his, because I think I was the most privileged traveler ever. I entered in Europe with my European (Belgian) passport because I have relatives there from my mother’s side; I had no problems in getting a job, or showing my face – so, being visualized in any other way. Also, being white I never had to protect myself of any stereotype and there are things I cannot, in any way, claim to experience similar to Mr. X.

But yes, there is definitely some sort of compassion that came not only from meeting someone that is so warm and so open to dialogue but also because of this search of a home. That I guess that on a more subconscious level was very present in my experience that probably made me to identify to his experience at some extent.

I decided to go back to Israel probably from the same reasons he would decide to go back, though he can’t – because of the family, I miss my family, I miss my friends. At some extent – although I have some issues with it – I miss my culture.

I’m also thinking about your unnamed character, he might be the refugee by definition. He has his hopes and dreams, but somehow he’s lost in queue, where he’s waiting and waiting. But somehow your film shows not the desperation, but the hope of this character and there’s a positive vibe being transmitted. Is this whole perception something specific to your character or it was your personal touch?

It was definitely specific to him. I can’t really say that I had a plan ahead about what kind of character I would like to have on screen, it really came out of the dialogue with him and I’m really glad that came out. Victimizing him in the film would’ve been a disaster because this kind of representation would not be new. A lot of representation we get in the media is the flow of this people into Europe. So it’s a vast demographic threat. Even the images we get, the kid on the Turkish shore for example – it’s the exact representation that the Western media would like to have. You don’t see his face like there’s no specific individual, completely hopeless and, it’s savvy that I’m saying this, the viewer’s expression when he sees that is “My God, the horror!” but since he’s deceased, well, there’s nothing we can do. It just leaves us with the reaction “Oh, dear! Oh, the tragedy!”

Just an emotional reaction.

But we’re not moved in any way to see the people differently or to change the policy in any way. But lately this situation is being broken because we also have the other famous image of the father holding his child while being in a boat. And you see that he has this nice watch on his hand, and it’s quite clear he’s a middle class man – ‘cause no poor guy would have the money to pay the smugglers and reach to Europe. I’ve read a description made by a person that was looking at the Macedonian-Serbian path and he said that these people look like hipsters! Really, they have nose rings and they look really cool. And that’s definitely not something you would expect out of the general image of a refugee, it really subverts the expectations. And I was happy to have something like this, because my character also subverts the expectations as well. Also I hope that the esthetics of the film creates this counter-representation of what used to be showed up by the media in the past, let’s say 10 years ago.

All this counter-representation and the esthetics of your film – are they being recognized by the spectators as well?

I’d say that I got diverse reactions and by some of the spectators it was. At Achtung Berlin Festival where I got an award, the explanation of the award got exactly that: “The way the absence of the protagonist challenges the way we perceive the representation of the whole reality. What we perceived as an entire reality, well suddenly there’s something absent there. The absence is marked.” And I was appreciating that on the behalf of the judges (laughs).

 

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„He’s not mad! And he’s dangerous because he’s not mad” – interview with Benny Brunner (part I)

17 Octombrie 2015

I met Benny Brunner at Astra Film Festival 2015 in Sibiu, RO. His last film, The Érpatak Model, was shot in Hungary and it’s following a mayor whose key part of its success (just won the forth mandate) is „divide and rule”. He’s a fascist, he commemorates Nazi soldiers and, as you might’ve guessed, a member of Jobbik. Far-right movement is rising all over Europe and Érpatak, an unknown village from Central Europe, gives one of the most shocking examples of what might happen if we don’t defend democratic principles. The first part of the interview is about his movie and the whole story of mayor Mihály Zoltán Orosz; the second one (you can read it HERE) is more like a dialogue about another exceptional case, Romania, where far-right is almost extinct.

12118721_10153328809349139_7183979529355518007_nBenny Brunner @ Astra Film Festival 2015 (photo by Cornel Moșneag)

So your film is about a mayor in Hungary that has a very fascist, dictatorial way of ruling. From what you’ve said at the Q&A, you’ve found out about the subject from a journalist, Keno Verseck. Was there some personal reason why you selected this subject? Is there any general interest you have about fascism or politics in your movies?

If there’s a red thread that goes through all the work I’ve been done so far in my films, it’s anti-nationalistim, anti-fascism, people or organizations that place their country in the centre of their value system. It’s my – if I can paraphrase the mayor – „mission in life” (laughs). No, i’m just busy with these subjects for many-many years.

Then how is this subject different than what you’ve done so far?

On an abstract level it’s not much different. The point in this film is that it takes place in a very confined, defined geographical space which makes it very fascinating for me; I couldn’t do it before. Because of the mayor’s multiple activities, his hyperactivism basically, there were a lot of situations I could follow in my film – and that made it super interesting for me. This idea of telling the story without having to narrate or to get interviews.

Did it shocked you the way this mayor was showing off?

I wouldn’t use shock, but I was somehow taking a back seat to his extent of fanaticism, of his total belief that all he does is good – it’s good for his country, for his nation, his culture. I thought, of course, in the beginning, I assumed that he might be an opportunist, but I don’t think he is, I think he’s in it, from his point of view, out of pure motives. What surprised me when I started to get interested in Hungary was how quick and how far towards a dictatorship like system that is in place there, how fast it went into a country that it was probably the most relaxed communist wise during the communist era, especially in the ’80s when – you’re probably familiar with the term goulash communism; I mean, Hungary was really relaxed, people could easily travel abroad, private property was allowed, the art scene was kind of more opened than in other countries, but not as much as Poland, of course; and not for nothing Nemeth in ’89 made it possible to end this system.

So where is this „model” coming from, what are the mayor’s roots of this nationalism?

I think that more than 4 decades of communist dictatorship suppressed a lot of national feelings and the moment this lead was taken off, this forces that operated underground just burst into existence and got in the center of the stage. But Hungary, of course, it’s a special case – losing 2/3 of the territory after WWI and almost 40% of the people which remained as minorities in the neighbor countries, the biggest one being here in Romania. And then you get this intellectual or semi-intellectuals who reconstruct a historical imagery and remember how great Hungary was, what a great empire, what grandeur, as the French call it – these were the processes that took place. And as the former communists became the social-democrats in Hungary and kept screwing it up big time and reaching themselves, all sorts of populists found very fertile land to plant these seeds.

And about this political configuration in Hungary, I was surprised to see what a big problem is to be a liberal from this mayor’s point of view.

Well, he compares liberalism to be as evil as the communism. It’s “the new evil force”, he actually says it. It used to be communism, now it’s liberalism.

But aren’t any political opponents in this village/town?

Yes, he has opponents, the biggest one is Gábor Szőllősi, the civil rights activist, he’s a liberal par excellence as we can call him as well. He’s fighting for civil liberties, democracy, freedom of speech, end of intimidation, he’s also against staging of all these far-right nationalistic commemoration events that’s being done an a bi-weekly schedule there. It’s incredible the amount of stuff that’s going on there.

But the one who came second in the elections was from FIDESZ and number three an independent. If the opposition forces would have been united, close their nose and agree on a common candidate, they would’ve won. People that voted for the opposition candidates were many than the ones to vote for this guy from Jobbik. You know, it’s classic divide and rule, it’s textbook. It’s so old it’s amazing that people still fall for it.

Mayor Mihály Zoltán Orosz

And it’s as surprising as this guy has now the forth mandate. What are his key strategies in surviving in this leading position?

Have you heard about the concept of vested interests? Again, it’s so old that it amazes me each time how come it’s possible. You are in a system in which you are unhappy, but you have vested interest in this system to keep going because you have it better than I. And who knows maybe your little privileged position will remain. So every person that has a little bit better condition than the others, are dependent on the system. It’s, after all, about making a living. In this towns’ case it’s about having access to the workgroup program that the mayor controls. He is the one that gets the budget from the government for so and so number of people. If you’re against him, you are out of the program, you have nothing to work.

And the landowners, the ones who make a living out of leasing parts of land to the people that don’t own any, also have some vested interest in the system, so they’re also supporting the mayor. But again, all in all, at absolute numbers, the people who are against him are more than the ones who are with him, but they’re divided.

So do you think that one point they will be able to understand this and put up together to win the elections?

I talked with Gabor at the end of April and he told me that he’s not going to run for mayorship this time, he did in the previous election, but as the last elections come closer he decided to run. And I’ve told him “You, guys, have to unite, you’re going to lose like this”. He replied that he’s aware of this and bla bla bla and then he decided to run and he came last, he got something like 16 votes and here’s how much support he gets in the village. Even if he says in the film that he gets a lot of calls from the people that are having problems with the system, or if they need juridical consultation, they come to him. What can I say… ? People tend to be stupid, it’s a problem that they’re uneducated, they’re misinformed… If you follow the state media in Hungary – I don’t know if independent televisions like ATV or RTL that don’t support Orban have signal in this village, you can only get them on cable and they have no cable TV service in the village – it’s really depressing.

But how large is this “model”? Because you said in the Q&A that we can take this particular case and use it to speak about Hungary as a whole. Is that really the case?

It’s not really the same everywhere, that’s why I brought Orban in the end of the film. There are two reasons actually why I did it: the obscene idea of the democracy that is not liberal, and that we’re going to switch from a welfare system to a working state. This idea of the working state is the key part of the “model”, everybody has to work; even if you get benefits you have to work. The idea of using criminal law to solve social problems it’s… (looking disappointed). He (n.r. the mayor of Érpatak) probably didn’t articulate as neatly and legally elegant as the state does but…

… that’s how Orban’s ideas are put in practice.

Yes. Orban signed an agreement with the head of Jobbik 5 or 6 years ago which would state that every municipality run by Jobbik must put in practice “The Model”. But now, before the last elections in Hungary (n.r. April 2014), when Jobbik changed their appearance and downed their rhetorics with the assistance of some American/Western consultants – they all look nice, they’re very young, all the candidates look like young executives from a big corporation; I don’t think there’s someone older than 40. And they all look successful, kind of, the person you would want to be – it worked for them in the last elections. Also I think they’re distancing from the guy (n.r. the mayor) now; in the last month I think someone came to talk to him, he stopped wearing these clothes – the so-called traditional costumes – he’s now in a suit, he even came to the screening we had in Budapest in a suit.

You also said that right now there are some lawsuits against him, the central administration also has a problem with him.

That’s what I heard, yes. I can’t really follow the Hungarian media, but Keno Verseck helps me with this. It’s not clear, but probably following the film they’re going after him; but not because the central administration are good, law-abiding officials, not at all. It’s just the war against Jobbik, they’re a big threat for FIDESZ. So they’re probably going to remove him.

There was question at the Q&A that someone asked about the morality of your movie. Because we can think that this mayor agreed to show up in the movie in his madness…

He’s not mad! He’s obsessed. I think it would be a mistake to regard him as mad, he’s dangerous because he’s not mad.

But couldn’t he use your movie in becoming a star in the eyes of his Jobbik fellow colleagues, something like “Hey, look at me how fabulous I am, how I rule this city with an iron fist”?

I don’t know what he had in mind when he agreed to cooperate, he was really enthusiastic, maybe he thought that this idea of “the model” would spread to the West, in Holland (n.r. Benny Bruner is Dutch) and Germany (n.r. Keno Verseck, the journalist in the movie is German). I think he’s so self-centered that he cannot look at himself or think about himself in any critical manner, whatsoever – he also has a terrible lack of humor. To me it looks like he’s living in a cocoon, nothing from the outside could penetrate him, until a film eats him. He really thinks he’s doing God’s work.

You know what’s his favorite movie? Excalibur, the legend of King Arthur. I think he portraits himself as a knight. When we talked with him about Excalibur, we were in the village where gypsies are stealing electricity, and he actually expanded the explanation why he likes the movie – bringing justice, protecting the culture and the purity of the people.

14223The Érpatak Model (movie poster)

But do you really think that your film could help him propagate his ideas? Like “any publicity is good publicity”?

Maybe if he shows it to his people and omits the parts that are critical towards him. When I finished the film and Keno saw it, he said “I think the mayor would like it, actually”. And my Hungarian editor also said that without the critical voices, his enemies, “the destroyers”, he might like it. Also the poster, don’t know if you saw it – my graphic designer, a Dutch Israeli, he did an Internet search for nationalistic posters and came close to a Nazi poster of the student union supporting the party and the ideology – there was this young soldier with a Nazi flag and I had a photo of the mayor in a same posture.

I think it’s too much in to your face to be any enigma. As I said, I don’t think he’s crazy, he’s only obsessed, maybe pathologically obsessed. He’s also obsessed with cleanliness – he said I think to one of his supporters, the exact quote “People tell me that when you look at Érpatak from Google Earth, it looks like Switzerland”. Clean, everything is in order (smiles).