This month I bought an obscene number of books, watched many docs and wrote for the latest issue of Modern Times. Below are just a few of the things I find interesting:
To Sum It Up: October
On a flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg last month, I watched two documentaries in a row. Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams) and Dancer (Steven Cantor) tell very different stories, one of a boy with autism, and the other about one of the greatest ballet dancers known to day. Yet they both made me reflect on the idea of success and what it means to overcome limitations – whether physical, emotional or circumstantial.
I loved this film, and recognized in it something Eastern, something that is familiar to me, and some of my own thoughts. Or so I thought, because after reading the director’s statement and some interviews she gave, I feel this story is so much more than she herself actually managed to find in it.
You might not be impressed, but I am. I just discovered there is a Japanese museum of rocks that look like human faces. I used to own some of these, who knows where they ended up. If only I knew about this place.
After some busy and long months with a lot of things to do – stuff that keeps me away from enough sleep, mental space and also writing on this blog – I wasn’t really much looking forward to IDFA. More work sounds like a pain right now, but I think I temporarily forgot that IDFA is home. I arrived in Amsterdam today without much enthusiasm but once I dived in and got my press pass, a very familiar feeling I get every time I come to the festival kicked in and stayed: I want to see everything!
I don’t remember Romania’s Lenin statues. I was too young to remember. But I do remember streets that had his name. The statues quickly disappeared after the revolution, and the names of the streets changed as well. To me, this getting rid of symbols was and still is fascinating. It is as if someone has been moved out of the apartment, throwing away all his stuff, which include personal items in the form of photos and statues, and his name on the door bell. Making these things disappear is the supreme post-regime clean-up and makes you realize just how deeply involved into the fabric of everything the regime really was. It took Ukraine a long time and some scandals around it, but here is Niels Ackermann’s photo series documenting where the ‘Lenin-toys’ go.
There is a small part of me that wants to say ‘this is kitsch’. And then there’s another part of me that tells this small part of me to get lost – pff, you and your categories and concepts! – this is magic, you know it is…
I cannot remember what I was searching for when I came across Frances Baruch‘s work. What I remember is this feeling of comfort I had looking at the pictures of her gentleness-inspiring ceramic work of people and animals. It was that feeling I sometimes have when I discover something that resonates with me and that feels…’true’.
Every now and then I take a step out of myself and look at my life. Every now and then I reflect on what it is that I’d like to be different. And every now and then I miss the smell of fresh laundry when you bring it from the outside during the day, and the comforting feel that slow early mornings have for me. And every now and then, especially then, when I feel nostalgic for slow paced days, I daydream about moving out of the city.
Hey you all, Passepartout is back. I said it would be June, I kind of meant the beginning of it, but the 26th is still in June so no one can deny that I am true to my word.
Now…have you ever seen this photo?
After thinking long and hard about the changes I want to make to Passepartout, I finally reached some conclusions. Starting June 2016 you can expect some new sections on the blog: a monthly interview, stories behind photos you might or might not know, more in-depth look into photo themes and also a monthly ‘Best of’ with everything good I spot around the web each month.
Meanwhile, May will be a month of rest, and Passepartout takes some time off because I will be on a trip to Thailand and Myanmar to recharge and explore.
But let’s not lose touch. Please subscribe Passepartout’s feed & newsletter.
See you all in June,
The first film I remember watching – ever – was one in which the main character is a guy dressed in white. Somehow I believe it was Alain Delon but I’m not sure what makes me believe that. And what happens is that he dies in some sort of corrida arena, not killed by a bull but by someone, someone evil. I don’t remember most of the concrete details, as you can see. What I remember is the strong impact the scene had on me, it felt like something I had to think about and I did think about it for a while. I was probably 4 or 5, film ratings were non-existent back then and and my parents, like many Romanian parents at that time, were watching films in secret, illegally smuggled into the country.
Less Than a Week Left to the Oscars: If You’re Hoping ‘Amy’ Wins, It Probably Means You Didn’t Watch the Other Films
A week from now, we will know which of the five shortlisted documentaries wins the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Bets are on Amy, Asif Kapadia’s film about Amy Winehouse. I really loved this film but I am truly hoping it doesn’t win. And here’s why.
The truth always prevails my dears, that’s what I have to tell you! They tried to cover it up in this 1643 Isack van Ostade’s A Village Fair with a Church Behind painting, and they painted a bush on top of it. But 100 years later, curators spotted the fake, took it off, and revealed the true “artist’s intentions”: a pooper with a dog looking at him. In 1903 when the bush was painted on top of this shameless little fellow, it seemed more appropriate to go about doing such business in a bush I guess. But in the 16th and 17th century this kind of potty jokes in art were apparently quite popular. You don’t have to be a high-brow art lover to appreciate old Dutch paintings, you can also be a ‘Where is Wally?‘ fan and spot for the twist behind them.
People often ask me what recent documentaries I’ve seen and what I recommend them to see. When they ask me that, my first question to them is what are you looking for? What interests you in general and what kind of stories do you like? Personally, I have an interest in what’s new in general in the documentary world, what’s fresh from the oven and what’s different. But of course, I also have my specific interests in certain subjects. But beyond personal preferences of different kinds, I do think there are films that go beyond their particular circumstances to reach something universal. Something that’s important for all of us and something that we can all relate to. Those films are often unforgettable and these three films I’ve seen at last edition of IDFA are of this particular ‘breed’.
Apparently, New York photographer Arne Svenson inherited a 500 mm lens from a friend who was passionate about bird-watching. Svenson didn’t know much about birds but he put the lens to good use, taking these really beautiful pictures of his Manhattan neighbors. The neighbors weren’t as excited about the photos as I am, so guess what they did, not rocket science, they sued him. And he won. It was 2013 and a court decided that what he did – taking the photos and then exhibiting them in a nearby gallery – was something defensible under the First Amendament’s guarantee of free speech and the photos needed no consent to be made or to be sold. That’s good to know. I accidentally found this story and these amazing photos some days ago, when I started doing research for a photo project I want to pursue, a project for which I was wondering where’s the line between public and private.
It’s all happening! Spotlight : Romania is a showcase for the real photo stories that make contemporary Romania interesting
Here is my big excuse for neglecting you and Passepartout for so long. It’s all happening now, not even a hurricane can stay in its way. The Spotlight:Romania exhibition I curated will be on from the 3rd of October until the 8th of November in Gemak, in The Hague. It is the biggest exhibition of Romanian photography The Netherlands has ever seen, and a selection of 8 photographers and 8 photo series that tell Romanian stories. They all have a bit of everything I know, love and miss from the country, and that I think the world should see. And yes, important: the exhibition is part of Spotlight:Romania. A Film and Photography Festival me and Corina Burlacu have been baking for a while now.
I really really miss being in a forest. I felt it today, really strong, didn’t recognize it at first but then I realized what it was. I miss the forest and therefore I miss home. Back home where I’m from. Romania. The misty days. The trees and the smells. And that certain feeling of having reached an end of the world. And strangely enough, this feeling reminded me of Henrik Emtkjær Hansen‘s photos from around the Wadden Sea.