“Now, more than ever, we need to go out together, watch movies together”, BIFF director says


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Interview with Dana Dimitriu-Chelba, director of the Bucharest International Film Festival.


Between September 3rd and 12th, the 17th edition of Bucharest International Film Festival, the first major feature film competition organized in the Capital, will take place in Bucharest. The event is designed as a festival open to art cinema, that  encourages new film currents, discovers talent and promotes young filmmakers.

We talk about changes, expectations and news from the Bucharest International Film Festival program with Dana Dimitriu-Chelba, the director of the festival.


What’s new and different about this edition of BIFF? How did you prepare it? What are your worries and expectations?

In 2021 BIFF has a new team. The CHARTA Foundation was joined by the “Grigore Vasiliu Birlic” Cultural Association, through its president, Alexandru Șerban, the nephew of the famous actor.

Also this year, Mirona Radu, the program coordinator from the Peasant’s Museum Cinema joined the team as program manager for the festival. Also new are, of course, the movies. I know it’s a redundant answer but personally I’m very proud of the selection of the 17th edition of the Bucharest International Film Festival.

Regarding the preparations for this edition, the festival will keep its sections that already have a tradition – such as the International Feature Film Competition (unique in Bucharest) or Panorama – but we have new proposals – Focus Greece and Special Spain, with contemporary feature films by authors with a strong artistic vision, as well as a collections of short films. BIFF in 2021 also brings a new section called Romanian Authors, which aims to bring together the Romanian filmmakers, both feature film and short film, and to offer the public the opportunity to interact directly with the teams of these films.

It is important for a festival to have a balanced program, with fiction films, but also documentaries, with feature and short films, without making an artistic compromise.

We would like the spectators to be surprised, inspired and accept our challenge to know themselves better through the films we propose because we will create an open dialogue between moviegoers and professionals.


What do you propose to the public? What do you intend to say about the period we are going through? What measures did you take for the festival to take place in optimal conditions? Do you have a plan B in case the epidemiological measures will be stricter in September?

We offer the public an exceptional selection in the official competition, worldwide film debuts, 5 national premieres and 2 European premiere films.

In the Panorama section we have included the titles of well-known directors, respected and loved by the public: New Order, directed by Michel Franco – winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2021, Hello Comrades, signed by Andrei Konchalovsky, who won the Special Prize of the Jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2020, Lux Aeterna, directed by Gaspar Noé, with Beatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the lead roles, The Human Voice, by Pedro Almodóvar, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Quo Vadis, Aida ?, directed by Jasmila Žbanić, winner of the Oscar for Best International Feature Film and nominated for Best film at the Venice Film Festival in 2020.

Bucharest International Film Festival also brings the world premiere of A Woman at Night, signed by Rafael Kapelinski, the director’s second feature film. He won awards at over twenty-five festivals with his first short film, Emily Cries, and whose debut in feature film, Butterfly Kisses, won the Crystal Bear in Berlin in 2017.

Focus section: Greece brings Apples, directed by Christos Nikou, nominated at the Venice Film Festival in 2020 and at the Transylvania International Film Festival in 2021 and Digger, directed by Georgis Grigorakis, nominated for the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020 and at the Awards of the Greek Film Academy in 2021.

From the Special Spain program I mention the wonderful film Las ninas, directed by Pilar Palomero. The film won the Goya Award for Best Picture, along with the Best Debut Award and Best Original Screenplay for Pilar Palomero, Award for Best Cinematography for Daniela Cajías, out of a total of nine nominations for the 35 Goya awards. In fact, Daniela Cajías became the first woman to win the Goya cinematography award.

The period in which the festival will take place may bring us further uncertainties and even new restrictions, and for a good development of this edition we will maintain the social distancing and we intend to organize as many outdoor screenings as possible. A mask will be worn in the indoor venues and, if necessary, we will ask for proof of vaccination. In the unfortunate event that the pandemic would spread and wave 4 would strongly invade Bucharest, we consider the organization of the festival exclusively in the outdoors, just like last year.


What events did you prepare and how did you choose them?

Film screenings are the main attraction of the festival, of course, and we expect the series of outdoor viewing to gather a large audience. Also, this year the jury of the festival includes the actor Adrian Titieni, the actress Ioana Flora and film critic Cătălin Olaru and next week we want to announce the name of foreign guests who will honor us at the 17th edition. With their support, I prepared a series of discussions and industry meetings, but also events dedicated to young professionals.


What will the masterclasses focus on?

The first confirmed masterclass is The Spectrum of the Story: A Different Way of Looking at Script Development and Film Direction, directed by Rafael Kapelinski (winner of the Crystal Bear at the 2017 Berlinale for Butterfly Kisses). This course is suitable for anyone with previous experience in filmmaking, including screenwriters and actors, who want to explore the possibilities inherent in drama. Covering every aspect of directing, from preparation to filming and post-production, the course presents a variety of directing exercises and offers the opportunity to work with your own material. It also includes presentations designed to clarify how certain sequences were written and directed, notable examples from international cinema.


What message do you have for the audience that has not been able to enjoy cinema in the hall for over a year?

I think we have to somehow readjust, socialize, communicate with each other.

The pandemic has driven us away from each other, dehumanized us and robotized us. Now, more than ever, we need to be together, go out together, watch movies together. And this is exactly what BIFF offers.

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