BIDFF: Uncertain areas. Body and cinema
The 8th edition of BIDFF – the Bucharest International Dance Film Festival – started on Thursday, September 8th with a screening of short films from the “Amalia and Chief Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosenˮ Centre for the Elderly, selected by Paul Dunca / Paula Dunker, who is involved in the activities of the Vârsta4 Community Arts Centre (an initiative which began in 2009, aiming to provide residents with collaborative opportunities in the areas of performance, theatre and dance). The first day’s programme also included the opening of the VR exhibition (which can be visited throughout the festival), a screening of director Saim Sadiq’s debut film – Joyland (2022) – one of the titles that featured in this year’s selection of the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes International Film Festival and which quickly received its first positive reception – and towards the end of the day, the focus shifted to the Film Garden, where the first five short films in the international competition were screened.
Until tomorrow, when the festival will end, the program includes conferences that were developed as debate platforms on performative theories and mass dance (by artists Kélina Gotman and Bogomir Doringer), workshops, a tour of the Obor market with Adrian Ionescu, other screenings of short films from the festival’s two official competitions, as well as the screening of the feature film Moonage Daydream (d. Brett Morgen, 2022), which is one of the most anticipated films of this edition. It’s a surprising edition due to its central topic – (un)safe zones, which captures the general rules and dispositions of the time. The festival’s themes in the past three years, marred by the pandemic and by various changes, were aligned in an uninterrupted fashion: from the 2020 edition, launched at the beginning of the lockdown, which looked into new connections between art and artist, to the middle of a pandemic which imposed various transformations, to the uncertain present, which seems to mark the beginning of a series of unfortunate events, which affect the industry and its artists. In such a context, the topic of (un)safe zones gathers together works of art and new territories in cinema, which is different to how an experimental festival would operate in this moment.
The Japanese avant-garde retrospective which was featured at the 2021 edition of the festival (composed of works by film historian Donald Richie and contemporary works by Toshio Matsumoto or other post-modernist artists), but also intensive workshops coordinated by a greater number of people were supplemented by the necessity of hosting conferences that would intermediate a dialogue, a reaction between the audience and the artist/instutution. The festival’s program seems to focus on efficiency, one imposed by financial shortages and intentionall constructed in a manner that would overcome the general lack of mobilization when it comes to niche film screenings. This year’s team did not have a pretentious approach to the festival’s main principle – dance, but rather chose to put it in harmony with many other artistic forms. Simona Deaconescu (co-founder of BIDFF together with Anamaria Antoci) and Anda Ionescu (producer) proposed a study case of what it means to be an artist and a film producer, incorporating their own experiences resulting from their collaboration. Their discussion in the framework of the conference titled Challenging the Genres, Producing a Dance Film summarized the choices of this edition while equally passing through the differences between dance film and the festival circuit fare of lesser experimental films, which do indeed also have a difficult half-life, but that is longer. The discussion weighs even heavier given the fact that materials and educational books on this genre of films (especially dance films) are practically nonexistent in Romania.
The atmosphere makes the audience of the conference feel like they’re in a much smaller room than it really is. People are laughing and joking, the tension of an official discussion is slowly wearing off. Their dialogue becomes somewhat like a friendly talk, which all of us in the room had with our friends who share in our passion for cinema and art, and which we needed to happen in a space like this. This does not however mean that their presentation is without structure, on the contrary: from the get-go, they set out to go through the steps they followed while producing The Fisherman’s Daughter, a short film currently in post-production. The more they sink deeper into the their answers on what makes a good, effective collaboration between an artists and a producer, they tell the story of working with four talented kids, most of them in attendance, who brought a big change to their perspective on the initial script. And here the needs of a script become the main topic. Does a dance film need one? How does one write down movement in a narrative sense? From the first timidly-sketched page of the script written in 2019, to photos, to the orderly explanation of the stages (collaboration, project package, financing, pre-production, the experience of an artistic residency, production, post-production) to discussing the difficulty of compromise, Simona Deaconescu admits whole-heartedly that the process of convincing someone that a project is visual and not simply allusive is even more difficult when the script is paramount when it comes to funding application. This is why this type of project requires more trust, especially on part of the production team.
Anda Ionescu shares the same opinion. The concepts behind these hybrid projects do indeed work, but they’re often assimetrical to reality. She goes on by saying that there were too few oportunities when funds were invested in short films without any expectations towards profit, but rather, animated by just the simple wish to support as many filmmakers or artists from the field in creating their works as possible, given the fact that they’re operating differently than performances created for the stage. Simona Deaconescu hopes that, in the future, dance films will be treated differently, and that it’s not ok to be so niche. Her attitude is supported by the interest and respect that she has for actors which she met while on an artistic residence, and with whom she managed to share various techniques, styles and ways of trusting. I left feeling that I could perfectly understand the last words that were said by the end of the conference: that she has all the time in the world to make films, and nothing is pressuring her to work faster other than her wish to try, which can only mean something good, whether or not you manage to achieve what you wanted.