“Looking at and Looking into” Marie, 32’ | Letiția Popa | Romania | 2018 | Documentary
*Curated by BCK & Guest-Curator: Athens Ethnographic Film Festival | Sunday 18.10.2020, 19.00 – Monday 19.10.2020
1. What was your initial inspiration and motivation behind capturing the everyday life in a small village in Romania in this short documentary film?
I got very interesting in documenting Iordana’s family, as she is the niece of my father and as I was very interested in documenting her environment. Growing up as a child, I was very familiar with this much simpler way of living. When I got the assignment in the second year of my studies in film school to make a documentary, I instantly thought of her and her family. I didn’t know her very well before, so I made a visit with my parents. That’s where I discovered her family, her daughters and her nieces and I was instantly attracted to filming them. One thing that surprised me was that it felt like a world ruled by women, so that interested me. Three generations of women taking of care of each other, while the men were away from home most of the day.
2. Do you feel that the presence of the camera is intrusive in people’s lives and changes the dynamics of the relationships between them? Is the “fly on the wall” approach of the observational cinema actually working?
I would never say something like that. I don’t consider myself invisible, but I do consider everything that I filmed a precious gift that I received from this family. They were always interacting with me, and of course, with the camera, so there is always the feeling of participation. Besides this, I am not interested in a “fly on the wall” approach or effect. I believe it’s a theory in itself, but we always affect each other, sometimes when we are not even in the room, so how can a stranger with a camera not be perceived? Of course, people get used to you, your energy, and even the equipment itself, but I believe that’s also happening when people are not so aware of what can happen with their own image. They don’t think of that, because they trust you and they get used to you. So it’s somehow questionable how much these images are actually altered.
3.Where there times that you felt uncomfortable during the filming and how do you handle tricky situations that might arise during the shooting?
Of course. I am sure you are referring to the fighting scene. Retrospectively, I feel this scene is too long in the film, but I respect the courage I had to leave it that long. It’s very uncomfortable. To witness, shoot, edit and watch it. I take it as a personal resistance to the action itself. How much do we react emotionally, what does that bring in us as viewers and of course, questions of should she had intervened? And if she didn’t, why didn’t she? And all kinds of questions about how ethical it might actually be to show this. But I am happy that I witness, shoot, edit and that people can watch it, as it is a reality. Should we pretend this reality doesn’t exist and hide it just because it brings shame or anger? So I hope this scene does bring these questions on the surface and make us wonder about our own internal reaction to that scene.
4. What are your future projects? Are you planning on returning to ethnographic documentary for your next film?
I have just decided I want to show a film that could be classified as ethnographic. The film was shot in 2018 but the last cut was made this year. It is about an inmate that has a very strange relationship to the other inmates. He is very kind and opened to the people around him, which make him an easy target for humor. I wouldn’t spoil it too much, but I will give the synopsis. Ghoerghita works in the kitchen prison. He is working hard to gain the trust of the guards and to blend in with his fellow inmates. Sooner or later, he’ll have to learn how not to always stand out.
Other than that, I am working on the post-production of other 2 short documentaries, which I would classify them in a more essayistic or poetic approach.