From Anina, with a view

An article by Dalesia Cozorici about the Creative Documentary Workshop in Anina, august 2018.

This summer, One World Romania at School took us away from staring at our Instagram and Facebook feeds, giving us rolls of film to play with instead.

 

The team organized a workshop aiming to help us show what a former mining town looks like through image and sound, seen through the point of view of seen adolescents that are passionate about visual arts. Alina Manolache, Alexandru Mihai and Andrei from the Museum of the Amateur Cineaste in Resita managed to get us through all the necessary processes in a very short time so that we could start writing out stories with words, photos, and moving images. The atmosphere in Anina was just like in Andrei Dăscălescu’s film, Planet Petrila, but we weren’t in Hunedoara but in Caraş-Severin. During my time at the workshop, I worked on a comic strip inspired by life in the small town, I worked on several photographic projects and made some short films. Besides all of this, I wrote about the feelings and experiences that I had in Anina.

The city is located in the heart of the mountains and is recognized for its two main industries: mining and ironwork. Even if it had a period of ascension, the city lost its population once the local coal mine closed, and so, economic regress settled in the community. When I look at the pictures I took now, I see the city in the same way I see a melancholic postcard. But as in any fairy tale, there are princes and princesses (whom I have interviewed), palaces and meadows (which we have photographed), stories and events (which we have listened to). The workshop organized by One World Romania at School contained everything we needed to learn to tell these stories in different ways, and so, though these methods, we tried to rewrite their endings. I began to love walking from our lodging to the city. I was feeling childish happiness each time me and my colleagues passed by the trees and hills and the brightly colored houses that reminded us of the Jiu Valley, of Tulcea or other areas facing problems in our country.

We composed music, and filmed, learned, rewrote our scripts, researched, refilled, and, most importantly, laughed together ... and, believe me, this is a very brief summary of how our days in Anina were like. The workshop has brought us the kind of information that you cannot find in YouTube tutorials, things you are not taught in school, and situations that are impossible to experience at home – one example being the lessons we learned about how to do anthropological research. In the first days of the workshop, we had communication exercises, where we managed to acquaint ourselves with all the teenagers who attended the workshop, teenagers whom I will call friends from here onwards. In the following few days, film director Alina Manolache talked about the many perspectives that a film can have, helping us understand how powerful an image can be. Alex Mihai took us a little out of our comfort zone and taught us to work on vintage film reel cameras, and so, the whole experience helped us a lot when we started filming our shorts. We were pleased to meet Andrei from the Museum of the Amateur Cineaste during the workshop because he brought all the equipment necessary for watching film and he also taught us how to develop pictures.

 

The people from Anina that we worked with were divided into what I felt were two categories: one side that was very skeptical about what we were doing - perhaps because they felt invaded, looked upon as subjects or because of certain distant, observational points in our approach - and the other side, composed of people that were very glad to talk and let themselves be filmed. The skeptical side was afraid that we would not tell the truth as they see it (that that the city is still beautiful and alive and it is still the home for thousands of inhabitants), but they also feared that we would concentrate only on the emptiness and despair that exist in places such as this, a discourse often held by the media or tourists. But, the fact is that we immediately fell in love with everything that surrounded us and tried to present the town as if we lived in it ourselves as if it was our own.

At the workshop, the starting point for everything was the people. Then, with good weather or a pleasant walk to the city or to the lake with our cameras and our pens. We were in control of the creative flow, modeling it and remodeling it, giving up on ideas and coming up with others, based on the things we were learning in the production process or from the constant feedback that we received. I saw lots of people coming up with new ideas about films or photos all the time, being enthusiastic about our bus rides into town (which is a topic I could write many things about) and that we can get our hands on the photo camera. Surely, we all felt something special while we were in Anina. It was either the stories, the objects that we found or the fact that we were seeing the city with our own eyes, during the daytime. And, in the evenings, we were watching documentaries, discussing them and be inspired by them. I'm also pretty proud of how our brains produced smoke when we were trying to tell a complex story, so much smoke we almost burnt the beds in which we were sleeping.

What remains to be done is to do an exhibition of all the wonderful films, photos and comic strips that we have done, again with the help of One World Romania at School and all the people who were involved in our process of visually interpreting Anina. Ultimately, the town remains alive because of the people who chose to stay there instead of leaving it, people who will be seen in the final results of our work.