The lovely month of March marks not only the beginning of the year's more interesting premieres but also of the film festival circuit and what a start this has been! One World Romania is a film festival focusing on human rights and on the documentary genre to highlight its mission. And while this alone would single it out among other film fests, it is also unique in the commitment to its message and the relevance of its films and guests. It kicked off at a furious rate on Monday and it will keep the same breathtaking pace until Sunday, March 17, so there's no excuse whatsoever for not catching at least one screening.
The entries are international while also making sure to promote and develop Romanian productions, such as this year's emigration study Anatomy of a Departure or the more provocative documentary of Romania's role in the Holocaust, the scandal-ridden Odessa. Whether the film is a thoughtful take on the matter is for the audience to judge and for film discussion to elaborate on, but no one can deny the film its undeniable merit of tackling an issue which this country is apparently not willing to discuss (yet).
One of the most moving films with a Romanian content, while being a truly universal story, happens to be a German one, the brilliant and chilling Revision, one of the best films I saw last year. The director Philip Scheffner works in an investigative tradition, digging up the case of two Roma men from Craiova and Alba Iulia who were murdered on the German side of the border with Poland in 1992. Clinical and factual in tone, the film builds up to an unexpected and heartbreaking finale, leaving you both endlessly touched and enraged. And this is, in a nutshell, what makes One World Romania such a sharp festival: being unflinching in the conflicts uncovered and nuanced in its film discussions. The latter are thankfully more immediate and complex than your average (and let's be honest, often hair-raisingly unfocused) session of questions and answers as they are led in this case by experts on the topic depicted onscreen.
What makes the festival even more relevant is its role as a platform for the Romanian documentary, a genre poorly represented at the national film university and otherwise often neglected by distributors and broadcasters, and logically by a substantial part of the audience. Through its panels, workshops and DVD film releases it is a valuable chance for upcoming documentarists to learn and a great opportunity for more seasoned practitioners to meet their peers.
Impressive in its scope and most of all in its ability to deliver the promised high-quality content in a country still struggling with the issue of human and minority rights, this initiative is not only welcome, but desperately needed. And thankfully one which carries its heavy themes with humor, generosity and charm.
Check out the official website for detailed information on the program, guests, and side events. And for the quickest tips, check out their rigorously updated Facebook page. We also covered the festival a few days ago, so here are even more recommendations.
by Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com
(photo source: One World Romania)