In a society of the spectacle like the one we live in, the masters aren’t always those most known to the general public, but rather those who wield with the greatest of skill the language of the art they practise, as well as those who constantly push its boundaries into new territories.
One World Romania #13 presents five films made by five of the world’s most important filmmakers. Granted, you may not have even heard too much said about some of them in Romania — having only made documentaries, neither have they been invited, perhaps, into the Cannes Competition, and since too many film critics today exclusively follow the main(stream) selections of the major festivals and premiere ceremonies, nor have they been included — more often than not — in their collective end-of-year lists of favourites.
And yet they are five of the most respected filmmakers among industry professionals interested in documentary/experimental film, and for us — at One World Romania — it means the world that they’ve agreed to show their films here and also, with the exception of Loznitsa, to personally attend the screenings in Bucharest.
Thomas Heise is a German filmmaker who was born in East Germany and whose films were systematically banned until the fall of the Berlin Wall — later on, he would direct his attention to the repercussions of Germany’s reunification on an individual, familial and regional level. This year, One World Romania will be showing his latest film, “Heimat Is a Space in Time,” a complex essay in which the director, peering through the lens of his very own genealogy, meditates on Germany’s evolution throughout the past century. Through this monumental film weaving together diary excerpts, family letters, vintage photographs and current footage, Heise carries out a subtle exploration of themes such as trauma, the passing of time and how the past is passed down generation to generation.
Mariana Otero has gained prominence thanks to the consistent social engagement of her films, each dealing with a different facet of constitutive societal inequalities and unfailingly advocating for empathy and solidarity as remedies. During this year’s edition of One World Romania, Mariana Otero will be a member of the jury of professionals in the International Competition and will also be presenting her film, “Story of a Look,” documenting the life of photographer Gillers Caron. The filmmaker turns her eyes on his work, amassing thousands of photos, rolls of film retracing the most important events in the history of the twentieth century: the Six-Day War, the incendiary May ’68, the Northern Ireland Troubles, or the War in Vietnam. By examining the images, we share with her the discovery of the man behind the famous photographer for the most renowned magazines.
Claire Simon is, by now, a familiar figure to OWR audiences, who had the chance to discover her films at last year’s Cineclub. Simon returns to Bucharest with a marathon-film, “The Village,” with a duration of eight hours and split into ten episodes. The village in the title is that of Lussas, which, had it not been for Jean-Marie Barbe’s (its native son) idea to turn it into a centre for reflection for documentary filmmakers around the country, would be just another of France’s picturesque villages. It was to become, in time, more and more important for filmmakers and film lovers alike, drawing audiences in their thousands to the yearly film festival that takes place here. The filmmaker grants us access into the intimacy of Barbe’s team, a chance to witness their step-by-step accomplishments, but also the disillusionment and failures experienced along their intrepid endeavour.
The filmography of Abbas Fahdel, one of this year’s OWR jury members, is marked by his Iraqi roots, having left his native country at the age of 18 in order to study cinema at the Sorbonne. Since then, each of his documentaries has been a tribute paid to those who, much like his countrymen, are faced with daily adversities, war and poverty. In his latest film, “Bitter Bread,” Fahdel chooses to depict the day-to-day life of a Lebanese refugee camp, reminding us that that the insidious violence of deprivation, humiliations, hopelessness transcends the boundaries of a warring country and spreads wherever they may step foot.
Sergei Loznitsa’s name is linked both with fiction and with documentary films, where the Ukrainian director examines the impact of the Soviet regime on the nations and individuals who has found themselves under its boot. In his new film, “State Funeral,” he dissects the ritualistic and spectacular aspect of the history that emerges from the official images of Stalin’s funeral. The event lives on in history not only because of its grandeur, but also because, in essence, it says something about the mechanism of fear, about how the ghost of Stalinism lingered in the world long after the demise of the man who had ordained it.