OUR SCHOOL / KAMENGE, NORTHERN QUARTERS /
THE SEA THROUGH YOUR EYES /
The 13th TDF series of press conferences was concluded on Saturday, March 19, 2011 with the press conference of directors Mona Nicoara (Our School), Lech Mikulski (The Sea Through your Eyes) and Manu Gerosa & Salva Muñoz (Kamenge, Northern Quarters).
Mona Nicoara talked about her film, which follows three Romany children in a small town of Transylvania, participating in a special project aimed at ending racial segregation: “The children often have to fight against indifference, tradition and bigotry, armed with their sense of humor, optimism and grit. The film took four years to complete, from 2006 until 2010, and follows the students of three classes. Those attending two of the classes were essentially excluded, while social integration was easier for the students of the third class”. The documentary also portrays the society these children live in. “We did not want to focus exclusively on the bright side of the story; we wanted to highlight the slim chances of success of this effort at social integration”, explained the filmmaker. The three Romany children make progress after they are admitted to this special program. “The different approach of the teacher helped the children progress. Everything worked smoothly. One only wishes that more children had been helped by coming to contact with this woman”, said Nicoara, adding that after the film was made, events took a turn for the worse for these children. “They are now attending another school, a school for children with special needs, an ugly place where they cannot be integrated. The sad thing is that both they and their families have accepted this fate”.
In the film The Sea Through Your Eyes, Lech Mikulski follows a blind woman named Alice, who sets sail for a unique journey with the sailing ship Zawisza Czarny. Full of doubts and anxiety at first, she slowly starts realizing the value of the experience. Besides, this is not just any trip, since Alice is just one of the many blind people who make up half of the crew. “I came by this story by chance. One day in 2007, while listening to the radio, I heard the captain of the ship tell stories from a previous journey. I thought the idea of such a journey for blind people was totally mad, and decided to capture it on film”, he said. For Alice herself, this journey proved to be an adventure, an opportunity to see her life from a different perspective. “She is a strong woman and sailing helped her understand her place in this world. What is amazing is the fact that she had lived close to the sea, since her father was a fisherman, but she had never set foot on a boat. After this experience, a lot of things changed in her life”, stressed the filmmaker.
Directors Manu Gerosa and Salva Muñoz talked about their film Kamenge, Northern Quarters. Their camera infiltrated the northern quarters of Burundi’s capital Bujumbura, where people try to survive and rebuild their lives, following a ten–year-long civil war, which only ended in 2005. The protagonist is Alexis Sinduhije, a reporter born in the area, who organized in 2007 a political movement aimed at changing the country. “The situation in the area is still dramatic. Even after the elections, opposition leaders were murdered. There was a time when three or four people were murdered every night. So you can all appreciate how hard and dangerous it was for Alexis to tell this story”, said Gerosa. The film also records the special relationship between Alexis and his wife, who is living with their child in the French city of Toulouse. “It was hard for her to talk openly, since she was really afraid”, said Salva Muñoz, adding: “during that time, Alexis was in jail and she was afraid that he would be hurt if the film was made. She only said that she loved him a lot, and that despite fearing for his life, she respects and supports his effort to fight for change in his country”.
The two directors, in addition to the difficulties they faced while shooting in the poor and violent districts of the capital, had to meet practical challenges as well, such as the lack of funding. “We both come from the advertising world, so we had no previous experience in securing funds”, explained Gerosa. Salva Muñoz added: “we made a deal with an Italian NGO. We proposed that they cover our travel and accommodation expenses in Burundi and we promised in return to make a film on their work. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement”.