Dana Dimitriu-Chelba, Giulia Ghica Dobre • Co-directors, Bucharest International Film Festival
“We want to place Bucharest on the map of important European capitals that organise film festivals”
- The co-directors of the Romanian gathering detail its history and mission
Dana Dimitriu-Chelba and Giulia Ghica Dobre, the co-directors of the Bucharest International Film Festival (BIFF, 15-22 September), detail the gathering’s history and mission for Cineuropa.
Cineuropa: Can you provide an overview of the history and mission of the Bucharest International Film Festival? What inspired its creation, and how has it evolved over the years?
Dana Dimitriu-Chelba: The BIFF was created by two women, Giulia Dobre and myself, during a period in which Romanian cinema was really exploding, but they were difficult times for women to be in charge of such creative endeavours.
We created this festival out of our passion for independent cinema from all over the world. We were first inspired by our attendance at festivals such as Telluride, Tribeca, Gijón, Thessaloniki and so on, and we intended to show the Romanian public quality films that wouldn't necessarily open in our theatres – films that the viewer does not consume as a commodity, while eating popcorn and drinking soda. Rather, they were “healthy” films for healthy people, with “healthy” stories – meaning stories and characters that would grab us and move us. Authentic, strong and sincere stories.
Film festivals often have unique programming themes or focuses. What are some of the defining characteristics or themes that set BIFF apart from other international gatherings?
Dana Dimitriu-Chelba and Giulia Ghica Dobre: We don’t wish to be unique; we just wish to accommodate our audience, to promote a different kind of cinema. Romania is a country with a complicated history. What we are trying to do is to focus on different themes and develop a different taste for cinema, which is not easy in a nation that is recreating itself. We all know the programmes promoted by most of the platforms. People are usually looking for “easy” movies or series, which is normal for a modern society dominated by Facebook, Twitter and others. We are living in a world already controlled by AI. More than that, Romanians feel unsafe because of the war going on at our border. Our Panorama section brings fresh and innovative films like The Echo [+see also:
film profile], Here [+see also:
interview: Bas Devos
film profile], The Beast [+see also:
interview: Bertrand Bonello
film profile] and Breaking the Ice [+see also:
film profile], directed by established filmmakers. But despite their international accolades, these movies wouldn’t get a theatrical screening in Romania.
Nevertheless, we have focused on a few special themes, such as South Korean cinema screenings of some of Bong Joon-ho’s early features, and US cinema from the 1980s. One of our new programmes, about which I am very happy, is named Young Voices and is dedicated to young filmmakers from all over the world.
Film festivals often serve as platforms for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work. How does BIFF support and promote young, up-and-coming talent in the film industry?
DD-C and GGD: Our international competition, curated by Jose Cabrera Betancort, focuses on debut and sophomore films, and it brings together titles that constitute the first steps of great filmmakers. These seven films have a personal view on cinema and herald the future successful careers of their auteurs.
Even more so, this is our goal with our special Romanian Authors section. We wish to promote young filmmakers who are maybe not so well known yet. This year, for example, we have five Romanian previews that will be screened in the presence of their teams, followed by master classes and Q&As.
Collaboration and networking are significant aspects of film festivals. What opportunities does BIFF provide for filmmakers, industry professionals and cinephiles to connect and collaborate?
DD-C and GGD: Networking and collaboration are particularly important. We are doing our best to be interactive: that is why we have an international jury and we organise online discussions with film producers, directors and others about their work. More specifically, this year, we have invited a young film director from Germany, Katharina Huber, recently awarded at the Locarno Film Festival, as our special guest. Besides a master class organised in partnership with the Goethe-Institut, we will organise online discussions with members of the Romanian film industry. The same goes for Giacomo Abbruzzese, the director of Disco Boy [+see also:
interview: Giacomo Abbruzzese
film profile], and Lila Avilés, the director of Tótem [+see also:
interview: Lila Avilés
Your festival likely contributes to the cultural identity of Bucharest and Romania as a whole. How do you see the event's impact on the local film industry and the city's cultural landscape?
DD-C and GGD: In my opinion, all film festivals are very important for the cultural identity of the place in which they are organised. For the Bucharest International Film Festival, we had to fight a great deal. Being a woman was not of great help, and Bucharest, which is now a modern European metropolis, played an important part. Culture was not always among the priorities of the local authorities. It seems as though times have changed, and everybody understands that a film festival is very important for the development of tourism, and that all important towns have a cultural identity. That is why we are fighting for this festival to be treated and respected in the same way as other film festivals are treated and respected in Europe and Romania. The development of BIFF must be a clearly stated aim for the Romanian authorities, to place Bucharest on the map of important European capitals that organise film festivals.
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