backstage view of a documentary film workshop, after week one

The 11th edition of the documentary film program Aristoteles Workshop began a week ago in Șurdești, Maramureș. In the first couple of days, participants viewed their own films and discussed them with trainer Thierry Garrel, an excellent way of knowing each other from an artistic point of view in order to build the teams. The third day was dedicated to a brief incursion in the history of documentary film-making, with evening screenings of documentary films, such as L’argent du charbon/Coal Money, by Wang Bing (France 2008) and Dix-sept ans/Seventeen by Didier Nion (France 2003). At the end of the third day, Thierry Garrel and producers Dan Nuțu and Cristina Hoffman have decided on the teams, and, on the fourth day, the participants went out looking for subjects for their films.

Thierry Garrel, former director of the documentary film department at ARTE France, with over 40 years of experience, tells us about his fourth meeting with Aristoteles Workshop: “Matching together director, DOP and editor, each with different cultural references, different levels and ambitions, creates a very special blend. There may be some tensions, but you need tension to establish a strong working team. Now they are in the middle of the scouting process, which means some anguish because they don’t know exactly what the approach will be, what kind of form they will imagine, what the strategy of shooting will be. Time is short and, at the same time, which is nice, time is long because once they have really found, agreed and understood the concept, then they can make a short film pretty rapidly. Tomorrow is my last day, I will pass the baton to Nino Kirtadze and John Appel. But, as I told the students two days ago: I wish I were one of the twelve.

Team composition and participants’ thoughts on the first days of the Aristoteles Workshop

Team 1

Director: Alexandru Badea (31 years, Romania) “I wanted to move away from fiction. I came to AW to develop more spontaneity, to train my gaze. In these four days, Thierry managed to inspire us even more into documentary film-making, to focus us and to make us understand that it is a very serious thing we are doing here, not merely puppet play.”

Director of photography: Ivan Koroman (30 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina) „After day one, I was wondering how this is going to work, but at the end of the third day I was bloody happy to be here. The courses with Thierry were amongst the best film lessons I have ever attended”

Editor: Delia Oniga (30 years, Romania) “It is the third time I apply to AW. Before, I did not have enough experience. Only last year I have graduated from UNATC, multimedia section. In the first days of the workshop I have seen movies I did not know, and probably I would not have discovered otherwise”

Team 2

Director: Sakari Suuronen (33 years, Finland) “I liked the idea of going to a foreign country, whose language I do not know, and make a film in such a short time. The landscape and surroundings are amazing, and the screenings in the first days were a really good experience. I have seen documentary films I had no idea about”

Director of photography: Diana Rusu (37 years, Romania/United Kingdom) “I have chosen AW because I did not go to a film school, and until now I did the filming, the editing, the sound, all by myself. I wanted to work in a team. After the first days, I can tell that having access to Thierry’s film encyclopedia and his insights into the art of documentary film-making is unparalleled.”

Editor: Ruxandra Pintilie (24 years, Romania) “I knew about AW from Adina Pintilie, my sister (the director of “Nu te supăra, dar…”,  2006 edition) I came here to find an interesting subject and to make a good movie. I prefer editing documentaries to editing fiction, it is more challenging because you do not cut the film following a screenplay, the story builds up during the editing.”

Team 3 

Director: Dragoș Hanciu (23 years, Romania) “ I came to AW because it is a nice bet to do a film in one month, with people you do not know, in a place you do not know. I clearly needed getting out of a safety zone where I was for some time now. The courses helped me, I saw different approaches, I discovered what others have done, films I did not know and probably would not have known otherwise ”

Director of photography: Ileana Szasz (32 years, Romania) “ The first days of AW were a great experience. I have this frustration about documentary film-making being often a one man show. You need to be self-taught. Here you come to learn from somebody, not just to observe, it is an excellent opportunity.”

Editor: Maria Bălănean (24 years, Romania/Germany)  “Everybody comes here thinking about making a film, but I believe the process is important: the things you learn, the feedback you get. So far, AW exceeds expectations.”

Team 4

Director: Liliana Constantin (36 years, Romania/United Kingdom) “I found out about AW from Mara Trifu (director of The Japanese Quince Tree, 2011 edition). She said, even after finishing UNATC and NFTS (National Film and Television School, UK), that her best experience was this workshop. And I believe her. After the first days, I am very glad to have met Thierry Garrel.”

Director of photography: Piero di Silvero (30 years, Italy) “I like to make films and I wanted to learn about documentaries. I did not follow a film school, and I was curious about the environment and the tutor’s approach. So far, the courses with Thierry were eye-opening ”

Editor: Marina-Evelina Cracana (27 years, Romania) “AW is a great exercise for an emerging documentary film-maker to shape his/her eye for any encounter with human experience. We watch films, exchange views, confront our limitations, exercise empathy and try to channel all the resulting energy into making a short documentary of real impact.”