Premiul pentru publicistica 2015 al Asociatiei Criticilor de Film

Divan Film Festival or the Story of a Great Small Festival of Cinema and Culinary Art

by Marian Țuțui


In 2010 a small festival on Balkan cuisine and cinema left aside the competition and prizes but endeavoured to promote a unifying perspective on the cinema of 10 nations: Balkan film studies. It is the merit of the great writer and recently chef Mircea Dinescu, of the amazing settlement on the banks of the Danube where the borders of Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia meet, of some serious scholars, as well as of the great value of the Balkan films of the last
decades that imposed the expression “Balkan cinema”. Paradoxically, while ethnic conflicts have provoked terrible experiences for the inhabitants of the Balkans and built new borders, the filmmakers seem to have benefited from the authentic drama and have learned to better address the surrounding nations as well. (1)

Cetate and Romania

     Divan Film Festival or in Romanian “Divanul Degustătorilor de Film și Artă Culinară” (2) started in 2010 in Cetate, Romania. Cetate is a village in South-West Romania, on the bank of the Danube, at the borders of Romania with Bulgaria and Serbia. It was an old harbour for exporting grain to Central Europe until WW2. On a trip, Mircea Dinescu, the initiator of the festival found a beautiful place on a Danube curve where the locals had organized a bid to use the bricks of some old buildings. They were old barracks of the border guards, a former harbour building, and one of the customs that now housed pigs and cows. He understood the potential of the place and for five or six years invested a lot of money in restoring the old buildings and turn them into a “cultural harbour”. He also bought a nearby well-known winery at Galicea Mare. Therefore he left Bucharest and moved 300 km westwards most time of the year with the idea of organizing a lot of cultural events in his “manor”. 

Mircea Dinescu

But first I must explain who is Mircea Dinescu. He is a famous poet born in 1950 who became a political dissident in 1988 after criticising Nicolae Ceaușescu in an interview for the foreign press and after his volume of poetry Death  Reads the Newspaper was forbidden in Romania but published in Amsterdam. After the 1989 revolution he founded a weekly magazine of humour and satire called Cațavencu (3). The magazine became famous and feared by politicians. Dinescu proved to be also a skilled businessman after selling it very well. After a few years without his humour and skills of his collaborators the magazine fell, so he took it over again very cheap and rebuilt its prestige. Now as a rich “landlord” in Cetate, as he jokingly called himself, Mircea Dinescu found a new passion: culinary art. He began to cook recipes old and traditional, as well as with amazing innovations. He opened a restaurant in Bucharest and hosts a famous TV show where he invites celebrities to cook and chat inspired by the flavours of the kitchen. 

The Idea for the Festival

     In 2010 I was invited by Mircea Dinescu, his wife Masha Dinescu (4) and his collaborators who asked me to be the director of a film festival trying to promote a place on the edge of Romania in a poor region but on the border with two other Balkan countries, Bulgaria and Serbia. They relied on my knowledge of the Balkans and my film connections there (5). They intended to make a Balkan festival dedicated both to cinematic and culinary art. As Mircea Dinescu puts it: “In Cetate the roosters sing in three languages: Romanian, Serbian and Bulgarian”. 
     We decided that we cannot organize a competition in a remote place but we can make a kind of gathering of filmmakers and filmgoers who will enjoy films in a peculiar atmosphere. Therefore even from the second edition I did not call the festival with this word (“festival”) but I called it “divan”, an old word of Persian and Turkish origin used in all Balkan languages which means both “gathering, council” and “sofa”. So it suggests a place where people meet and feel comfortable. However, we wanted to do also something serious therefore we decided to organize during the festival a conference dedicated to a topic of Balkan cinema and even to make the program taking into account its topic. 
Assets and Disadvantages

     We had in mind that Cetate is a remote and poor village situated at 25 km from the harbour Calafat and its bridge over Danube which leads to Sofia and Belgrade, at 72 km south of the nearest big town Craiova and its international airport, and at 300 km West of Bucharest. We soon understood that the nearby Craiova international airport was not of use for us as it did not have direct flights with the neighbouring Balkan countries. We even found that Cetate was closer to Bulgaria's capital, Sofia (230 km) than Bucharest, and almost as far as Serbia's capital, Belgrade (311 km)! Another strange thing: sometimes the mobile telephone signal from Bulgaria was stronger than the Romanian one, therefore if you were not taking care, you could speak home more expensive on automatic roaming! The local peasants buy cheaper second-hand cars from Bulgaria therefore many cars have Bulgarian registration. Our foreign guests were amazed and they thought that the locals are in fact a lot of Bulgarian tourists!    

     However, we have a wonderful setting on the bank of the Danube, with breath-taking sunsets and an incredibly well-managed beach nearby. When climb down the two kilometres from the hills of the village to the banks of the Danube where is “Dinescu's manor” you have the glimpse of a lake and a forest with a lot of storks and other wild birds. The Gypsy horses and donkeys grazing on the meadows are neither a sight to be neglected. The old buildings have been restored and turn into comfortable hotel rooms. Some rooms have air condition while others do not need (even if sometimes outside in August are 35 degrees Celsius!) as they are situated under huge centennial oak trees. However, it is about four buildings, not more, so probably we shall never have a big festival! Among the buildings and some ruins of old bunkers Mircea Dinescu displayed a strange collection of statues of angels, carriages and an old rusty tractor. A lot of dogs and cats are tolerated by the hosts and most guests adore them. In fact, the buildings represent a hotel with restaurant which works even in the winter and even during the festival in a reduced form.
Of course, we are on the bank of the Danube and the big river and its wilderness make sometimes surprizes. Once we had an invasion of frogs after prolonged rainfall and some other time a lot of wasps arose from the old roofs of the buildings. Mircea Dinescu solved the problem with traps in which he put apricot jam! This also reminds me of an attraction: when the hosts make the apricot brandy. The smell is impeccable! Equally intriguing was probably the smell of the lambs' grills for the poor jackals on the Bulgarian bank. Only in the morning we understood what was the despondent screaming from the other side. The poor jackals could not join the feast!

The Balkans 

     I realized that for foreigners, especially the Chinese people, I have to explain what “the Balkans” means. It is one of the many peninsulas of Europe which hosts no less than 10 small nations: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (all six used to be the constituents of ex-Yugoslavia), Albania, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania (7).  Although having three different faiths (Christian Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim) or speaking very different languages (Romanians speak a Latin language, Serbians, Croatians, Bulgarians speak Slavic languages, while Albanian, Turkish and Greek are very distinct languages) the Balkan people share a tumultuous common history as having been under the rule of the Roman, Byzantine, Turkish and Austro- Hungarian Empire. Therefore although quite different sometimes, the Balkan people share a set of common assets: Turkish words and cuisine, haidouks (8), Nasreddin Hodja (9), an early tradition of small competing states beginning with Athens and Sparta, dictatorship, partisans (10), communism and Soviet protection, foreign yoke etc. Generally it can be said that they share a common history and a lot of common folklore motifs. For the other Europeans the Balkan countries are generally considered a less developed part of Europe, “the powder keg of Europe” at least for starting WW1, as well as a bridge between Europe and Asia.  

Balkan Cinema 

     Beginning with the great success in 1980 of Emir Kusturica and Theodoros Angelopoulos critics worldwide began to speak of “Balkan cinema”. Later on, the war and political disintegration of former Yugoslavia, directors like Danis  Tanović, the filmmakers belonging to the “Romanian New Wave” or Turkish directors like Nuri Bilge Ceylan or Semih Kaplanoglu have strengthened the fame of Balkan cinema. Today, "Balkan Cinema" is a trademark for a distinct, valuable cinema that conquers foreign audiences. One can even say that some Balkan filmmakers have succeeded to transform the dramatic experience of the region's war into perennial audio-visual works. Of course, usually it is about “ethno cinema” as in Kusturica's films including a shocking mixture of violence and humour but Romanian directors like Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu have become undisputed world masters of minimalist realism. Half a century ago “Scandinavian cinema” was in fashion, now it is the time of the Balkan filmmakers, until recently underestimated.

The Film Program 

     Although beginning with Angelopoulos and Kusturica “Balkan cinema” means also a certain relevance to more than the native country, and even an understanding that the domestic market of films is no longer sufficient, especially in the case of small countries after the ex-Yugoslav war, I realized that in fact even today we suffer an effect of a typical Balkan situation, not to sufficiently watch the films made in the neighbouring countries, especially the oldest ones. Therefore I decided to include in the program of the festival a selection not only of recent films, but also old films unknown (many times for political reasons) to the Romanian audience or to the audience of other Balkan countries, forgotten or less known films even for specialists. By the use of old films one can justly suspect with me a certain influence of my long activity as curator of the Romanian Film Archive. On the other hand the inclusion of older films was necessary in order to illustrate the special theme of each edition of the festival. 

     We show long feature films, short documentaries and animation films, sometimes even long documentaries and animation. Some of the films can be very old, mute ones, 20-30 years old ones but therefore unknown for the Romanian audience and a lot of recent short films made by young filmmakers that are able to show somehow the filmmaking tendencies in several countries. 
Sometimes I included in the program also films made elsewhere but about the Balkans or even some films about the Danube. At the third edition we decided to make a screening of animation films for the children from the nearby village during the time the guests of the festival are on their cruise. Among other films we showed the first Romanian long animation film which was undeservedly almost forgotten: Robinson Crusoe/ Il racconto della giungla (1974, Romania- Italy, directed by Victor Antonescu and Francesco Maurizio Guido).      

     The first edition in 2010 was dedicated generally to “Balkan Cinema”. The second edition was dedicated to “the Danube and Its Ten Riparian Countries” (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova). I and my staff noticed that it was about too many countries and their films in a festival of 5-6 days. On the other hand we realized that we cannot go further with this kind of approach. For instance, we had to renounce immediately to the idea of an edition dedicated to “Mediterranean countries” as it was about to choose films from no less than 18 countries. 

     In 2012 we began the first thematic edition and its international scientific conference under the title “Escape from the Balkans”. It implies less "escapism" (illustrated by imported genres such as the western, horror, SF and sexy films) as an overstepping of our preconceived ideas about the Balkans. In this respect I showed to the audience two films that seemed impossible to be shot in a communist country. However, it is about Yugoslavia, where it was the most liberal regime: a vampire film The She-Butterfly/ Leptirica (1973, directed by Djordje Kadijević and a sexy one (made during communism!) The Beauty of Vice/ Lepota poroka (1986, directed by Živko Nikolić). 

     In 2013 the theme was “The Comedy of the Balkans”. We had in mind a local humour coming from Nasreddin Hodja (Afanti) and Sly Peter (the common folk heroes “Hitar Petar” in Bulgaria and Macedonia, “Păcală” in Romania) or the famous modern “black humour”, that is jokes at the limit, about death, war or other things considered incompatible with laughter. Black humour has become a Balkan brand, which means, in fact, the ability to laugh at tragic moments even with the most serious things, which has made locals easier to traverse a history if not cruel, at least very dramatic, including recent years. 

     In 2014 the theme was “Balkan Heroes and Anti-Heroes”. In fact, the Balkan heroes are the most famous in the world, beginning with Ulysses who came back late at home after wandering with the boys at sea. For Italian writer Giovanni Papini even Achilles and the other heroes (11) were just suckers who had been slaughtering each other for ten years under the walls of a borough (Troy) for a pretty wrinkled woman (Helen). These heroes are added to Păcală and Nasreddin Hodja, then follows a series of frantic dancers like Zorba (12) and Kusturica's characters. Anti-heroes? It's not about losers in the American sense, but about ordinary people like Puiu's Lăzărescu or the composer of the recent Death of a Man in the Balkans/ Smrt coveka na Balkanu (2012) by Miroslav Momcilović. The festival becomes an opportunity to see that both heroism and life in an eternal transition were born in the Balkans. Between the Roman withdrawal and the invasions of the Turks there were only periods of transition. That is probably why Lăzărescu's entire name is Dante Remus Lăzărescu. 

     In 2015 the theme was “Roads and Crossroads”, while in 2016 “Urban Stories in the Balkans”, in 2017 “Balkan Love”, while in 2018 “The Balkans Dream”. Between 2012- 2015 the festival issued four books in English and Romanian including the papers presented at the conference and I had the honour to be their editor.       

Organization of the Festival

     Divan Film Festival is organized by the “Poetry Foundation Mircea Dinescu”. The morning and afternoon screenings take place in a hall of 100 seats (“The River Station”), which sometimes is used as a hall for receptions and concerts. The evening screenings are in open air for approximately 200 spectators. The first two editions were held at the beginning of September but he had to move the festival ahead for a few days, at the end of August, because in the evening in September it gets cold and windy, especially on the Danube. The screenings are made usually from DVD and BluRay discs with English and Romanian subtitles. The English subtitles are usually on the film, while the Romanian subtitles show up separately below the images, directly on the screen. Usually we made three screenings a day, although we tried four screenings but it was too tiring for the audience. We have to take into account that besides films screenings the festival hosts also concerts, cooking shows, book promotions, exhibitions and the scientific conference. 

     In the last years due to several reasons we prolonged the 5-6 days festival with two days hosted by Craiova, the biggest town in the region, 70 km far. Thus we enjoyed a bigger audience and reached up to showing 70 films per year, among which about 5-6 long feature films, and a lot of short documentaries and animation films.      

     Due to the fact that the festival became popular quite rapidly it benefits from a lot of partners such as televisions and radio channels, newspapers, sites specialized not only in cinema but also in tourism and music. The team of the festival has been quite small, around ten people, inclusively presenters and technicians for the screening, sound and subtitles.  

     I have been the director of the festival from its beginning in 2010 for seven years, until 2016. I was in charge with the program, with presenting the guests on the stage, with the printing materials and with the conference. At its last two editions the festival had two selectors, Romanian Cătălin Olaru and Italian Massimiliano Nardulli. Both are young and talented and I trust they will make a good job. However, something is missing: the festival does not organize the conference. In my opinion, without the conference and the book including its papers the festival does not look serious anymore.                        

Gathering Funds

     The average budget of Divan Film Festival has been about 34,000 USD. This money comes from the annual funding contests of the National Centre for Cinematography (14), of the Romanian Cultural Institute (15), the Guild of Romanian Filmmakers (16), the Craiova City Hall and Dolj County Prefecture, and in recent years from the annual contest of the National Cultural Fund Administration (belonging to the Ministry of Culture). To these main sources we had added private national and local sponsors.   

Promoting the Festival 

     The festival became quite popular not only in Romania and the neighbouring Balkan countries but also in other countries like Great Britain, Germany, Slovakia, Italy, Russia and China. This happened due to some foreign guests who wrote about it and promoted it very warmly. Another contribution in making known the festival was represented by the five international conferences and four volumes in English and Romanian including the proceedings of the conferences. 

     We should not forget the very peculiar and funny posters of the festival made under the influence of old engravings reminding of the 18th and 19th century and some heroic past of the Balkans. Even the daily funny teaser film (usually made of fast forward edited images) of the festival uploaded on or other sites proved to be a good way to make the festival known. 

     Even from its second edition in 2011 the festival made such an impression on Albanian director and producer Eno Milkani that he asked the permission to open a franchise of our Balkan food & film festival in Albania. Indeed, in 2012 he started in Pogradec a festival called “The Balkan Film & Food Festival”. 

     In 2011 Kinečko, a film magazine in Slovakia, after visiting our festival wrote that “it is the best festival on cuisine and film in the world” according to their knowledge.             

Music Concerts

     From the beginning one of our aims was to host good music concerts. In this respect we hosted a string quartet of the Craiova Philharmonic, the famous folk musician Grigore Leșe and Amir Heidarkhodaee, an Iranian guest
 with traditional Persian instruments, “Steaua de mare” Band (Starfish Band), a famous Romanian band of traditional old Balkan music “Trei parale” and other Romanian bands, as well as jazz singers such as Maria Răducanu and Marius Mihalache. A constant participant in the last night of the festival has been “Bambo Siria”, an astonishing Gypsy band found in the nearby village by Mircea Dinescu. They are able to make everybody gather in a circle dance, including VIP guests and cooks.       

Food and Cooking Shows 

     For many Europeans Balkan cuisine is one of the best in the world. It is based on Oriental influences through Persians and Turks, and on typically ingenious simple peasant meals. Some of its specialities are known outside the  region: “gyuvech” (a kind of hotchpotch made of different vegetables cooked in the oven), “kufte” in Turkish; “kofta” in Arabic is a kind of meatball made of minced meat, “baklava” (in all Balkan languages and now probably across the globe) is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey, “chorba” (named with a word that comes from Arabic or Persian) in Romania is a kind of soup soured with a liquid made of wheat or barley bran, while “ajvar” in Serbian and “hajver” in Bulgarian is a pepper-based condiment paste made principally from red bell peppers and oil.    
     In Cetate the guests can enjoy a lot of organic food and vegetables, as well as meat of farmed animals, raised near the house, not on industrial scale. It is about apricot and cherry jam, Romanian “zacusca”, a kind of “ajvar” where eggplant and onion are added, fresh fish from the Danube, for instance huge catfishes, lamb, veal and goose meat, and even an incredibly tasty bread with thick bark baked in a traditional Transylvanian oven located next to the screen. 

     If you visit the kitchen you will have the proof that most of the time Mircea Dinescu is not a cook but a conductor of an orchestra of 10 female cooks. His poetic talent is still present even in the names of some sorts of his wine: “Black Panther”, “Poetry on Glass” or “Fifi like Snow”. On the label one can see a goat with tits that resemble wine bottles.        

     The cooking shows benefited from the presence of Mircea Dinescu, Mircea Groza and other famous Romanian chefs but also of some amateurs who tried to present some traditional Vlach, Greek, Turkish or Gypsy meals. Sometimes Dinescu and Mircea Groza have been in serious competition with famous chefs such as Dejan Milovanović from Belgrade, or Bulgaria's showman Uti Bachvarov, who has an old culinary show on the Bulgarian television. Some guests remember even the traditional recipes prepared by two old Turkish women who usually cook for the Muslim Turkish community in Vidin, Bulgaria.      

Other Events
   The five or six day festival is in fact divided in two by a traditional cruise to the Danube Gorges. The guests embark in a bus up to the harbour Orșova and from there they make a scenic cruise upstream by boat through the  narrow river that cuts the Carpathian Mountains and separates Romania from Serbia. In 2013 instead of the cruise we made a trip by bus to Bulgaria in order to see the Belogradchik Fortress and rocks. 
As Mircea Dinescu owns Galicea Mare winery which is not far away from Cetate sometimes we organize visits and tasting at the wine cellars. 

     We hosted several exhibitions of art. I shall mention only the caricature exhibition in 2013 “Romanians and Bulgarians in Schengen Space”. 

     In 2016 the Divan hosted "5C Project", a cinematic culture itinerary course dedicated to the formation of five young film critics. The program was co-organized by the Balkan Cultural Association (Romania), Adriapol (Albania), Balkanski Kulturen Krug (Croatia) and Altcine (Greece) with the support of the European Union Media Program. "The 5C Project" debuted in January in Athens when a jury selected the authors of the best film reviews of the Balkan Short Film Festival on line Altcine Action!. The project was born from my idea that festivals give awards to the filmmakers but never to the critics. By awarding the best of them who were able to write in English we could achieve two goals: to better promote the festival by good reviews and to encourage young critics to write. Galina Maksimovic (Serbia), Rhianon Wain (UK), Andrei Şendrea (Romania), Özge Özdüzen (Turkey) and Mariana Hristova (Bulgaria) were selected. The program continued in Belgrade and Split in May and ended in Tirana International Film Festival in October 2016.     

     Important Guests and Films

     Among the most important filmmakers I can mention Serbian Slobodan Sijan (17), Greek directors Nikos Perakis and Fotos Lambrinos, Romanian directors Lucian Pintilie, Nae Caranfil and Laurențiu Damian, Albanian director  Piro Milkani, Macedonian director Antonio Mitrikeski, producers like Bulgarian Martichka Bozhilova, Romanian Oana Giurgiu, Anca Puiu and Cristian Comeagă, Romanian stars Maia Morgenstern (18), Dorotheea Petre (19) and Florin Zamfirescu, as well as actors like Slovenian Mojca Fatur and Greek Andreas Konstantinou. We can add to these VIP guests also presidents of the national film centres Electra Venaki and Artan Minarolli, in Greece, respectively in Albania, Aleksandar Erdeljanović, director of the Serbian Cinematheque, film critics and scholars like Antonia Kovacheva, Aleksandar Yanakiev, Gergana Doncheva and Petar Kardjilov from Bulgaria, reputed Dina Iordanova from St.Andrews University in UK, Lydia Papadimitriou from John Moore University in Liverpool, Ana Grgić from Croatia, Ismet Arasan from Turkey, Sergey Lavrentiev from Russia, Nevena Daković and Aleksandra Milovanović from Serbia, Stefan Sidovski from Macedonia, Dan Fainaru from Israel, a regular contributor to Variety, Screen International and  Jerusalem Post, Ivan Forgacs from Hungary, Massimiliano Nardulli from Italy, alongside reputed Romanian film critics Dana Duma, Magda Mihăilescu, Marilena Ilieșiu, Angelo Mitchievici, Constantin Pârvulescu, Mihai Fulger and Valerian Sava. We should add also Bulgarian cartoonist Valentin Georgiev. In terms of countries of origin we had guests from 21 countries.  

     As for the movies we shall mention first some shorts awarded in Cannes: The Sudden and Untimely Death of Colonel K.K./ Iznenadna i prerana smrt pukovnika K.K (1987, Yugoslavia, directed by Miloš Radović), Marriage/ Jenitba (1985, Bulgaria, directed by Slav Bakalov and Rumen Petkov), Silent/ Sessiz be deng (2012, Turkey, directed by Lokman Rezan Yeşilbaş) and Barking Island/ Chienne d’histoire (2010, France- Turkey, directed by Serge Avedikian), in Berlinale: Rabbitland (2013, Serbia, directed by Ana Nedeljkovic and Nikola Majdak), or Oscar-nominated: Oktapodi (2007, France, directed by Julien Bocabeille, François- Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi). From the long feature films we should mention the European premiere of the film The White Tiger/ Belyy Tigr (2012, Russia, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov), Stone Years/ Petrinia hronia (1985, Greece, directed by Pantelis Voulgaris), winner of two special mentions in Venice, The Road/ Yol (1982, Turkey- Switzerland- France, directed by Serif Gören and Yilmaz Güney), awarded with the Golden Palm in Cannes and nominated for the Golden Globe, An Unforgettable Summer/ O vară de neuitat (1994, Romania- France, directed by Lucian Pintilie), nominated for the Golden Palm award, Death in Sarajevo/ Smrt u Sarajevu (2016, France- Bosnia- Herzegovina, directed by Danis Tanović), winner of the Silver Bear (Grand Jury Prize) in Berlinale, as well as some box-office successes such as The Priest's Children/ Svecenikova djeca (2013, Croatia- Serbia- Montenegro, directed by Vinko Bresan) or Mission London/ Misia London (2010, Bulgaria-  UK- Hungary- Macedonia- Sweden, directed by Dimitar Mitovski).      

Funny Adventures 

     One of the funniest adventures we had ever had was in 2013. That year instead of making our traditional cruise at the Danube Gorges we made a trip by bus to Bulgaria at the marvellous Belogradchik rocks (20). We were at the border checking when one of festival drivers called me on the phone. He was supposed to take from the airport the Greek director Nikos Perakis. He called and said that the director is together with his wife but they act strange. I asked my Greek friend Electra Venaki if Perakis had a wife or lover and she said no. At the same time a tourist agent from a luxury hotel called and told me that we took by mistake their guests, the head of the Greek police and his wife. Everybody in the bus was angry with me because I did not cease to talk on the phone instead of getting on the bus to leave. It was really difficult to explain hastily the confusion and solve the problem. I dictated the driver's phone to the travel agent, calm down the Greek filmmaker and make him leave with her car. The two cars met somewhere on the road near Bucharest and made an exchange of ‘prisoners’! The head of the Greek police and his wife had panicked when noticing that the driver was not heading to Bucharest. Finally I found out that confusion had occurred because both the film director and the chief of the Greek police were called “Nikos Perakis”!  

Outcomes of the Festival?

     Divan Film Festival has become not just another film festival in Romania but “one of the greatest small festivals in the world” as some of our foreign guests put it. Indeed, its popularity crossed the border so that even Bulgarian border guards know about us as we could see with our own eyes when we crossed the new bridge over the Danube between Calafat and Vidin. 

     Of course, it is hard to quantify the contribution of a festival to the education of filmgoers and filmmakers, or to a closer collaboration between filmmakers from the Balkan countries and beyond. However, the volumes that gathered in their pages in English and Romanian comparative studies of some scholars interested in the Balkan phenomenon revealed common places and other things not known by specialists from other countries. “Balkan cinema studies” seemed a few years ago something strange and exotic but now they have to be taken seriously into consideration. One the other hand I really hope that Dina Iordanova will consider Divan Film Festival in her next film festival studies, her latest object of study. Such a small festival can be sometimes as important as a missing link in the human evolution. Not least I have to mention that at the last two editions we even produced some co-production films made entirely in Cetate!   

     Some time ago, after the great economic crisis of the 1930s, tens of thousands of Romanians came into pilgrimage in a village near Cetate, at Maglavit. There, a shepherd who suddenly had become able to hold a religious speech told to the crowd that he had seen God while he was with his sheep. The Romanian Church did not recognize the miracle, but many peasants visited Maglavit in the hope that meeting with the man who spoke with God would change their lives. Now Cetate has become a must see in an area that seemed to have no tourist potential and the main attraction is the festival with its cinematic, gastronomic and musical surprises...  

1. This article was commissioned by BFA Journal and was written for the special issue dedicated to film festival studies.   
2.  In translation means “Gathering of Tasters of Film and Culinary Art”.
3.  The name of the magazine comes from a famous careerist and demagogue politician, a character in the play A Lost Letter (1884) by Romanian dramatist Ion Luca Caragiale.
4.  Well-known translator from Russian. We have been colleagues during high school. 
5.  In 2008 I published my PhD. paper under the title “Orient Express. Romanian and Balkan Cinema”. Meanwhile, alongside Dina Iordanova and Nevena Daković I have become one of the founders of Balkan cinema studies.  
6.  With an area of 468.000 square kilometres is the twentieth part of Europe and having a population of almost 80 million people it represents the ninth part of Europe's population. 
7.  We can compare the Balkan Peninsula with Southeast Asia or Indochina with its mosaic of seven countries. 
8.  “Haidouk” is a Balkan word for “outlaw” “Bào kè” (暴客), especially a good one of Robin Hood type, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.   
9.  Nasreddin Hodja is a Turkish wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. In Uzbekistan and China is known as Afanti (阿凡提).
10.  Here “partisans” refer to paramilitary forces engaged behind the front line against German and Italian army during WW2 in Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania.
11.  in Homer's Iliad.
12.  The main character in the famous film Alexis Zorbas (1964, Greece- USA, directed by Michael Cacoyannis).
13.  It is about an ironic allusion at the formation of the Romanian people (the Roman army leaving the territory of the Dacians), to the slow transition between communism and the market society (eternal transition), and the name of the hero in Cristi Puiu's film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005): Dante (alluding to his poem about his journey to hell), Remus (the legendary founder of the city of Rome, a very used ethnonym for Romanians, which reminds of their Latin blood) and Lazarescu (a Romanian family form for Lazar, the man in the Bible resurrected from the dead).
14. CNC is a similar institution as in France like a small ministry of cinema, which is in charge with funding film production and other activities related to cinema.   
15.  It is an institution similar to British Council or Goethe Institute, which promotes Romanian culture especially abroad.  
16.  UCIN is one of the five unions of the filmmakers in Romania, the oldest (1964) and biggest one.
17.  His film Who's Singin' Over There?/ Ko to tamo peva (1980) was voted as the best Serbian film ever.
18.  Winner of the European film awards in 1993 and of a special mention in Venice in 1995, starring in films by Márta Mészáros, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Mel Gibson etc. 
19.  Winner of the award Un certain regard for the best actress in Cannes (2006). 
20.  They are fabulous, as remind of the Great Canyon in Arizona.

Galerie Foto

Cuvinte cheie: divan film festival, marian tutui