Friday, June 3, 2011

Our Very Special Screenings in Targu Lapus

Alin and his family watching Our School for the first time. Photo credit: Mona Nicoara (c) Sat Mic Film LLC
Before we have our special screening at the Transylvania International Film Festival, we had to have an even more special Romanian premiere: Showing the people with whom we worked for over four years the final festival version of Our School.

It's always a nerve-wrecking experience to do that and, luckily, we could do it as a team this time - which really means that we brought our editor, Erin Casper, along to Targu Lapus. She had been living with the footage of these children for nearly two years now, getting to know pretty well, despite the fact that she had never met them in real life. The kids, on their part, knew in theory about Erin's existence (we mentioned her to them the last few times we were there), but it was hard for them to imagine both the process and the flesh-and-blood person of the editor. In short, everyone was nervous.

The first sign of relief came during the screening we had for the school director, in his office. He was impressed with the quality of the film - seeing us come back for so many years had made him doubt that we knew what we were doing, or whether we we would ever finish the film. And he generously said that this is an essential film for Romanian education, and should be shown in schools and to teachers around the country.
Alin's family was next. The picture above says it all, really. We found them tending cows on a hillside for the summer, in makeshift tents with no water or electricity, let alone a TV with a DVD player. Hence the improvised screening on Erin's laptop. (I'm sure there's a funny Apple commercial somewhere in there, but this was too emotional and wondrous a moment to bother with it.) Alin and his family laughed and talked throughout the film. Part home video and part therapeutic stock-taking operation for them, the documentary worked as a validation of who they are, a recognition of their intrinsic value. Alin was very moved and quiet at the end. Alin's father was lost in thoughts. He asked us: "What do we have to say at the festival in Cluj?" "Just answer the questions, whatever the audience asks you," we said. "I'll only tell them one thing: 'What you see, in this film, really happened.'"

We're billed as a "special screening" at the Transylvania International Film Festival. We're sure it's going to be special. But this was even more special.