Matthieu Darras • NISI MASA
by Anne Feuillère
Set up in 2001 as an initiative by a group of thirty young European cinephiles, including Matthieu Darras, NISI MASA today includes 17 member countries and is increasing its activities in all areas. The dynamic network is becoming a key reference in European cinema – that is where the future of Europe and its cinema lies.
What does "NISI MASA" mean?
"Asa nisi masa" is the magic formula that Mastroianni repeats incessantly in 8 ½. It’s Javanese, a child’s game that consists of adding syllables, in this case to "anima", which means soul in Latin. We wanted a symbolic and popular name for European auteur cinema. Fellini is known widely and has made many co-productions, and 8 ½ is a film about cinema. We also wanted a key name to represent plurality in Europe.
How was the network formed?
Several of us had met at festivals many times and we wanted to create a network to start a sort of “Euro generation” of filmmakers, young people who would have chosen to work not for economic reasons, rather to cooperate on a cultural level. Each person brought their own connections. We also wanted to use cinema as an opportunity to talk about European citizenship, to see it from a political viewpoint, as an area for reflection.
Who are your members and how does your network work?
There are currently between 300 and 400 active members. NISI MASA is a group of associations with the principle that each member develops their activities in their own country and starts their own projects, which we support. All the activities are carried out by volunteers and each person has to feel that they are involved. If we wanted to start a grassroots network for young filmmakers, it was because we wanted to give young filmmakers a chance to play an active role and share their passions.
What is the place of your scriptwriting competition in your activities?
It is our main activity and our first project. It sums up our objective – to support young talent. Each person writes in their own language, national juries will make the selections, translate the scripts and a representative jury chooses three winners for three production grants. The first grant of €15,000 can be used to make a film and the two, each worth €5,000, to find financing. The 12 finalists are invited to participate in scriptwriting workshops, to work together and meet producers as well as musicians that have suggestions for songs, etc. The idea is also to allow people to meet up and that everything is organised by young people for young people.
So, your activities are now growing?
Yes, the competition only represents only a fifth of our activities. There are also scriptwriting workshops, film workshops, seminars like this year’s one on Balkan identity in Bulgarian cinema. At the moment, we are working on a DVD because we also want to distribute films from young self-made directors, a project to which all our associations in Eastern Europe are very much attached. In contrast to countries like France, shorts are rarely distributed there. Everything depends each time on our objectives, but the idea is the same – young people working with and learning from each other. The richness of the network lies in the associations of very different people, each association with very diverse aims. In Belgium, for example, the association includes a producer but also a seller of bras (laughs).