Urban Eye Film Festival and the challenge of living

5 December, 2018

When the cities we live in are becoming more and more uninhabitable every day, Urban Eye Film Festival brings out various ways to explore the living space through cinema, and interrogates the manner we use this to built environment for our own benefit and how we can transform it in something more than just a shelter.

The festival, at its 5th edition this year, has returned between November 7th-11th, with a selection of documentary and fiction films, all of them revolving around the same theme, the relationship established between man and the whole corpus of buildings around him. These screenings, held at Elvire Popesco Cinema and Apollo 111 Theater, were joined by a series of related events that met all the ideas of the project. It’s been a weekend full of films about living in the city I’ve watched in Bucharest, at Urban Eye Festival.

The documentary films were like a deep gaze into this theme of living, turned through different manners into a great ritual of co-existence. The Other Side of Everything, Mila Turajilic’s film, records the history of the last century in Yugoslavia, through a door locked for decades in a Belgrade apartment. The apartment is actually the one where the director has grown up, and the main character of the documentary is her mother, an activist during the revolution. The new thing this film brings is this ability to embody a wide history around the mystery hidden behind the closed doors.

Integral Man (directed by Joseph Clement) is a biographic film about the imposing house which combines mathematical rigor with the harmony of music, of Jim Stewart, the most well-known mathematician after Euclid, a philanthropist and LGBTQ activist. Jim and his spacious, sterile, perfect house seem to be one and only, and the way the documentary presents in detail every corner of the house and every motivation behind the architectural choices, makes the viewer perceive the film as an accurate handbook on creating a modern space that can serve as a home, as well as an entertainment setting. The world the mathematician lives in is a glamorous, polished one. And since Jim is a music enthusiast, it’s only natural the soundtrack is a presence itself, aligned with the curves of the house.

Another film that explores other personalities’ passion for architecture is The Idea is Paramount. The Architectural Passions of Andrzej Wajda (directed by Jacek Link-Lenczowski), which includes a fascinating series of interviews with the Polish filmmaker, his wife, and the director and architect, Krysztof Ingarden. The collaboration between the two has led to the construction of some innovative buildings in the architectural landscape of Krakow – perhaps, among the most impressive ones is the Wyspiański Pavilion.

Gaming: The Real World brings a fresh perception of urban rehabilitation and re-planning. In civic gamification, professionals in urban research use video games like Minecraft, Cities: Skyline to elaborate strategies for facilitating habitation in the city. The only argument the film brings to prove that this method won’t really work is the fact that the real world is much more unpredictable than the one created in video games. The screening of the film was followed by a discussion with Karsten Michael Drohsel, a professional in the field, who has also coordinated the Playing Bucharest workshop, in which the participants had the chance to visualize Bucharest in a virtual way.

The fiction films in the festival programme have been able to draw a sort of ideal ambition about how man views space and the environment which he decides to live in. Outdoors (directed by Asaf Saban, 2017), the opening film of the festival, tells the story of a couple who is starting to build a home in Yaara’s native province. The film brings the emotional conflict born between Gili and Yaara to the fore. The small details in the characters’ dialogue are fascinating. One of the characters tells the spouses he was so concerned about his new car getting scratched that he chose to scratch it himself, intentionally. At a party held in their yet unfurnished house, Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay, A Room of One’s Own, is brought up. These two interventions build even more around the theme of the film, the fragility of the human being compared to the bare immensity of the practical objects, immensity to which man gives meaning and attaches feeling.

The closing film was the superb Aquarius (directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho), selected in the competition for Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. Clara is the only tenant left in a housing area built by the seashore who hasn’t given up the apartment to real estate developers who want to demolish the houses and build a hotel instead. The film can trigger a strong emotion due to Clara’s attachment to the entire area she lived in until then, revealing a spirit of vendetta in her fight with the developers.

Throughout the festival, the public could attend the exhibition on collective living, applied to the existing models in Romania, LO ± VE. Living and Neighborhood. Among fragments of well-known literary texts about space, shelter, home, the exhibition aimed to chronicle the various types of housing shared by people in 1918, in order to better understand the present and find relevant solutions for rethinking the way we live now, together, in the same city. Streets, buildings, children were resized, in a playful way, in small capsules and were all placed in the same two-dimensional tiny installation, which obviously made you think of childhood. We were personally asked the following question: how did we live, how do we live now and how will we live in the future?

Can home be really „an enclosure that opens up”, as Noica said? And what role do space and its organization play in “opening the area”? – excerpt from LO ± VE. Housing and neighborhood brochure.

Avatar Diana Smeu