A diary from Anina

An article by Octavia Bortișcă about the Crative Documentary Workshop, august 2018.

It's not easy to get to Anina! That's what I found out after I (being quite unsure of myself at the moment) applied to be one of the participants of the Creative Documentary Workshop organized by One World Romania at School. But, going to Anina was well worth the effort, because the week that I spent there it was one of the most productive, exciting and interesting ones I've ever lived during the summer vacation.

The program, at large, seemed quite simple, at least in the early days: we got to know each other, then we got to know the city, we suggest ideas to each other, and in the evenings we watch movies, then we finished the day with a feedback session (about the movie we’d seen and the day, in general). The second day of the workshop was the moment when I felt like I can start contributing with my own ideas. We were put together into teams and we went to the former mining town that we did not know much about, but what we already knew sounded bizarre.

Our team (made up of Theo, Anca, Andrada and I) was coordinated by Oana Ghera, who let us play with her Polaroid camera. The exercise involved meeting different locals, finding out all sorts of information about them (where they came from, what they were doing and so on), and at the end of the session, with their consent, we were taking pictures of them. I have to admit that it wasn't easy for me at first, since I was being quite uncertain about my questions and my tactics of approaching people (and I realize there is no specific formula for this), but after seeing some of my colleagues take pictures and ask questions, I told myself that I can’t go on like this and that I have to do something.

And so, at one point, we all went to a souvenir shop, run by a local woman named Ms. Liliana, a pretty tiny store with all sorts of handcrafted objects, including customized fridge magnets with views from Anina, were crammed. That's when I started asking questions, and finally, I managed to strike up a conversation that ended with a Polaroid photo and a lot of goodbyes.

As we walk through the city, we were finding more and more interesting people with increasingly different stories. Thus, at the end of the day, we were able to praise ourselves for the fact that we met a lot of people: from the lady who sold her own agricultural produces and that had to take the train to Anina to sell them, to a former member of a local rock band. The band, at its peak time, had great success, playing concerts in many different cities (Reşiţa, Timişoara, Caransebeş, Oraviţa), and with the money made from the music, they managed to buy themselves new musical instruments.

Each day passed by very quickly, and each team worked on something else: drawing a city map, writing poems, a comic strip, shooting a film or analog and Polaroid photos. The last task one gave us some trouble because we decided to attach each photo to a white sheet onto which we were to draw something representative or an image of the place where we discovered the person in the portrait. Being quite uncertain about my drawing skills, I was constantly asking for approval from Theo and Oana, but after I understood that if I do something, Theo, who’s an art student, would fix it, I calmed myself down and painted without any restraints.

I found it very nice that almost every day ended with a film screening, and the films we saw that came from the communist period were presented by Andrei from the Museum of the Amateur Cineaste, which were among my favorites. I especially liked those that had the purpose of preventing work-related accidents in the mine, and the victims in the movie, which were supposedly dead, could be seen moving a foot, clutching a hand, batting an eyelash and so on, which I found quite funny. In those evenings, I was able to see some new movies, but also to re-watch Planet Petrila by Andrei Dăscălescu, a documentary set a basis for everything we started to do.

What I liked about this workshop was the spontaneity and the naturalness of everything that was happening around. Out of nowhere, a new team would come up, a new project, or a new tour of the city in which we would be looking for new stories. It is worth mentioning that there were around 25 of us, and we only had a four-seater car and the city was a few kilometers away from our accommodation. So we had to schedule our tours, depending on the needs of each team. There were times when some of us stayed three days at the accommodation, working inside, because we already had all the necessary information for our project and we could focus on working with them.

Just as spontaneously came our last walk in the city. After taking analog pictures with Petra, Andrei, and Dalesia until the nightfall, I found a small diary, abandoned in a little park. It was covered with leaves, and after opening it we found out that it belonged to a miner, and that he had begun writing in it in 1966.

Certainly, the workshop would have delighted anyone who would have participated in it! I felt that these days showed me a productive way of spending my time and I have learned a great bunch of new things by taking part in it. I discovered new passions, such as analog photography and train rides (when it comes to twelve-hour trips). Now, I only have to write about my experience in Anina and wait for the exhibition with our works, that's going to be held early next year and for the next workshop!