The Curtain Re-opens In Sfantu Gheorghe - The Anonimul International Independent Film Festival 2007

Only a few days to go before movie-goers and lovers of nature will be able to fulfill their dreams: films in paradise! A remarkable display of art in the enchanted Danube Delta, precisely where the mighty river flows into the sea, offering its own splendid aquatic and vegetal show. Oriented towards European film, the ANONIMUL festival at Sfântu Gheorghe will have over 5000 participants this summer. A genuine film marathon seasoned with plentiful sea scents, reed and hot sand. For further details about the cinema feast starting August 13th, we have requested a short interview with Mrs. Miruna Berescu, the festival's director.  "OUR PROGNOSIS WAS THAT THE FESTIVAL WOULD GAIN INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION IN ABOUT FIVE YEARS. WE'VE SUCCEEDED IN ONLY THREE."Beside the great disadvantage of a distant location, organizing a film festival in the Delta has one huge advantage: nature. Film screenings in the open air, under a flight of seagulls. Has anything changed since last year?The place is indeed marvelous, and we intend to maintain its natural grace. Everything we have built in the Delta respects its standards. There are no concrete buildings. The novelty is the number of bungalows which has doubled since last year. We've built another restaurant, besides the two which already exist, and, in the Delfinul camping site, possibilities for entertainment have been diversified. There's an open-air cinema with 1000 seats, a restaurant, a bar-club, a disco, and people can play table tennis and pool. For more dynamic people, there are fishing-boat trips, kayak trips, bikes, carriages, even a hippobus. Those who want to can also fish or sunbathe, and they'll certainly have a lot of films they can choose from.Will the 'free' spirit of the place be mirrored in the democracy of the event? Will guests be seen up-front, can they be approached informally?I've noticed people find it harder to approach a director or producer after he or she has stepped down from the stage following a short speech about the film. That is because the circumstances, in that case, are formal. But if the director goes to the camping site and sits down 'for a beer or two' with people there, there are real chances of captivating discussions starting between them. The atmosphere is completely relaxed and bohemian, and invites interaction. As an organizer, I am naturally interested in people's reaction and impressions. With this exact purpose in mind, of enabling an easier interaction between professionals and cinema fans, we've set up the so-called 'informal spaces' in the camping area. They'll be something like the 'five o'clock tea', meetings where discussions will be encouraged surrounding the film screenings of the previous night. Last year, for example, there was much talk around movies that have been running in Romanian cinemas. It was an appropriate context to talk of these, since we had included – outside the competition – seven Romanian films made by young and very young filmmakers of the 'long-awaited generation'. Of course, there's also the question of language when one wants to approach a foreign film director. But I doubt that those who come to Sfântu Gheorghe have any difficulties with English.What is the festival's audience made up of?Those who come to the Delta for the festival do so equipped with sleeping tents. They're not all as young as one might think. These are cultivated people, curious and always open to dialogue. People who won't hesitate to speak their mind, even if they might have critical opinions. But, again, they will not participate in anything far-fetched. If they sense something is unnatural, they simply turn their back on it and go have a beer. We had about 4,500 people in Sfântu Gheorghe last year. Seriously! We ascertained the precise number from the records of the ferry bringing them here, there being no other destination of that particular ferry. This year, accommodation capacities have been filled, through reservation, ever since April, and we expect to welcome about 5,000 people, who will be lodged in the camping area and in the village of Sfântu Gheorghe.The Anonimul festival seems to adopt a less aggressive publicity strategy when compared to the festival in Cluj. Are you counting on word-of-mouth, a more human approach perhaps?I, for one, am content with the kind of media coverage the festival has had in previous editions. My personal prognosis was that it would take the festival about five years to gain international recognition. It seems we've managed all that in only three. Besides directors and producers from abroad, a great number of international journalists also accepted our invitation. This year, as was the case in all three editions, the international film magazine "Screen International" will be covering the event. The Delta, the water, flights of birds, all generate a certain romantic impulse. Will you act on that impulse? Will there be dancing in the evening, here at the festival? Will there be singing?We'll have that every night, yes. Before every screening, short concerts are programmed, or 'song-bits', as we call them. You probably know that the Anonimul Foundation also organizes, here in Sfântu Gheorghe, a music festival for young artists. So we will invite people who have been present at that festival, there will be folk music, blues, jazz, and classical music. Last year, we had the Nova quartet, so we listened to chamber music. And it was a success. We haven't invited any pop-dance bands, because we don't think that they would fit in with the event. We know what people come here for: the landscape, the breeze, quietude, sun… something other than what you find in cities. A novelty this year is the audience prize – for feature and short films.Has anything changed in the festival, thematically?Yes. Every year, we've tried to bring something new in the section outside the competition. If, last year, we presented films of young Romanian directors who are well known by now (Florin Piersic Jr., Constantin Popescu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Catalin Mitulescu, Cristian Mungiu, Radu Muntean, Cristian Nemescu), this year, we will present a series of documentaries which revolve around the global warming problem, as well as other serious issues mankind is faced with: hunger, lack of drinking-water or medicine, wars. As for Romanian films, we will present three feature films: that of Cristian Mungiu – "4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days", a prize-winning film in Cannes, Cristian Nemescu's film "California Dreamin'", another prize-winning film and which has already been screened in cinemas across the country, and another film we will keep as a surprise. ("The Rest is Silence" by Nae Caranfil).From its very first edition, the Anonimul Film Festival has promoted a movie genre that has long been overlooked: the short film…This year, all eligible films submitted by Romanians will be screened in a separate section of the festival. Only five Romanian films have made the cut, but, for those who are interested in short films and want to see the rest of the films, such an opportunity will exist on one of the evenings of the festival.What special guests will you have this year?Our special guests at this fourth edition are the British director Ken Loach and the Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, the latest two Palme d'Or winners at the Cannes festival, in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The editor-in-chief of the American publication "Variety" will also be joining us. The director of the British Film Institute has also answered our invitation. Besides them, we'd made it tradition to invite all winners of previous editions.Is there something you would particularly like the readers of Formula As to know about the Anonimul Film Festival?I think it's relevant for them to know that, in organizing this festival, we've had to fight prejudice. And that, by and large, we've managed to overcome it. Firstly, not everyone is crazy about sleeping in tents or bungalows, then there exists a certain mosquito phobia, and – most importantly – there is the distance. People don't like to bother much and, since the only way to get to Sfântu Gheorghe is by sea, coming to the Delta, especially in the heat of summer, is quite an effort – financially and in terms of time. So we'd like to thank in advance all those who will be coming this year; among which are many who come from the West of the country and from Transylvania. We can always count on them, because they're hard-working and loyal. I know this from the surveys we did in previous years amongst our audience. There is another type of prejudice we've had to fight. Some say that the Anonimul Festival is elitist. I'm not sure they mean that positively or negatively. We might be, through the films we select for the festival, yes, if elitist means not allowing junk films to get selected in the festival or not presenting the same movies that will invade cinemas in autumn, then yes, we probably are elitists. And if elitist refers to the way we treat each other, our guests and our audience, that arises solely from professionalism and respect. And if the result of our efforts is a larger and larger number of people coming to the Delta for the festival, then we must be doing the right thing.  SHORT INTERVIEWS WITH ROMANIAN MEMBERS OF THE JURY The lights are out, and the Anonimul Film Festival can now have its deserved rest. A midsummer night's dream is over. Six days spent in the green paradise of the Delta, the background for a cinema feast, which we have tried to summarize in a few short interviews. Alex. Leo Şerban – Responsible for the SelectionSelecting the movies that will enter the festival is, of course, a huge responsibility. Have the audience's reactions confirmed your choices?My first choices are, obviously, the films I personally like, but, fortunately, my tastes are quite eclectic. I was mainly interested in bringing to the festival filmmakers that are very different from one another, and movies that are, themselves, different from one another. With this idea in mind, it was my hope that each film would find an audience of its own. I don't believe in an audience anymore, but in audiences. Each individual will want something different, identify himself or herself with something different. That was pretty much what my wager with myself was. It's better to have opposite reactions than a warmish, indefinite consensus. I wanted to include films that have not been present in Romania for at least one year. Which is quite exclusive. I've tried to create an international panorama as broad as possible, with films as variable as possible.How has the jury found your selection?There were almost instantaneous debates and discussions about the films. Which is natural with film critics. I was very glad when the president of the jury told me, after the first three films, all of which dealt with the family, that none of them was similar to the others. They handled family problems, but they had completely different perspectives. Films so different from one another, yet tackling the same theme. I was very happy indeed that they were so well received.  Irina Margareta Nistor – Film CriticWhat was it that you especially liked about the festival this year?There is something special about the Anonimul Festival as compared to other festivals. It has a little bit of everything. You've got the films, the trips along the water channels, and a wonderful dinner by the shore. You've got plenty of conversation and meetings. You can practically make friends, which is great, whether it's people from Romania or from abroad. Then you have the concerts, very good ones. Nightlosers and their extremely original and inviting music, or the Nova quartet, which plays classical music. It's so surprising that you can find so much of everything in a quite restricted area. Add to this the meeting with a large audience in the open-air cinema within the camping. I was happy to see that it's a quite educated audience, in the sense that they know what to ask, how to react. The festival also offers, through this, a way of taking the pulse of the movie-goer, which you wouldn't normally be able to do. The audience here is a lot more varied, with people coming from all over the country, from different backgrounds, organizing their holiday according to the festival, which is quite flattering, especially for the organizers.Do you think the film-selection this year was a successful one?I think it is pure speculation to say that this or that edition was better than another. Either way you take it, selections are subjective. The films were part of other festivals as well, and some even won prizes. I think I may have wanted to see a film that had not been in any previous festival, one we would only discover here. Such films exist, but are difficult to find and difficult to bring home. I think that is what I would particularly like: a search for rare films. Films of which you know nothing and whose discovery becomes a pleasant surprise. For example, I remember when I first went to the festival in Stockholm there was a film nobody knew anything about, and many didn't even go to see it, but that was the film which won the great trophy, and it was a …Tarantino. That is what I hope to see here someday.  Hanno Höffer – Author and Short Film DirectorWhat's your impression of the short films present in the competition?This was my first time at the Anonimul. As part of the jury in the fiction short films section, I couldn't see many feature films or documentaries, because they ran in parallel, in other cinemas. The short films, though, were very varied and tried to cover many geographical regions. A lot of good films, very different styles and approaches. All in all, I liked the selection. Which films distinguished themselves from the others? Was the jury's decision a difficult one?No, our decision was not very difficult, to everyone's good fortune. It so happened that the films which were awarded prizes were chosen almost unanimously by the three members of the jury. There were a few films I particularly liked. For example, a Japanese film running only four-five minutes, absolutely brilliant, like a haiku (Kiyumi's Elbow, Sayuru's Knee, Director: Satoru Sugita, Japan).Do short films stand a chance in competition with television?Well, actually, television is where short films have a chance. Short films are a good format for television; it's easier to buy them, that's the advantage. In Romania, however, nobody spends money on short films, television does not buy them. Most of the times, they prefer to ask for short films without paying for them, or paying only symbolically. So we still have to wait before seeing short films being sold and distributed to a similar extent with other countries. Some closing remarks about the festival?I loved it. Perhaps the best thing about it is the fact that the audience is filtered through the festival's distant location. Only those who really know what this is about come here, people passionate about film. I was glad to see that even some natives of the place came to watch movies, some even debating on the way home. The camping area was a great idea. It's more popular, more populated. That's where you find your real festival audience, so many young people. And it's encouraging to see that there are so many people out there who bothered to come all the way here to watch films. Will you come to the next year's edition too?They've already renewed my invitation to come and perform with the Nightlosers. We'll come, certainly.

by Delia Hanzelik