Once upon a time there was a film festival on an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The island was known as Bornholm and the festival town as Gudhjem, in English meaning “God’s Home”. Peace was exactly what everybody wanted when the festival started, and people travelled from the countries around the Baltic Sea to show their films. Some were suffering from an ideology called Communism and needed to meet a quieter world. Others were bored in their democracies and came to seek out drama and conflicts. Which they found in many of the films in the early 1990s when a wall in Berlin came tumbling down and many people in Eastern Europe felt what freedom was like after struggling in the streets. Dramatic pictures were shown in God’s Home in the country called Denmark. A fairytale it was, has been and still is for many of the people who came to the Balticum Film & TV Festival year after year.
A New Adventure
After eleven festivals in God’s Home, the people who gave money to the film festival found that everything had become too peaceful. The countries that used to have Communism now had Democracy too, and their films had become like all the others. They decided that the festival should again include films from places with conflicts, suffering and no Democracy. Therefore people came from south-eastern Europe to Gudhjem in year 2000 to show films and talk with the people from the North. After their talk, they all decided to make a festival together. One year the South-easterners could host the Baltics, while every other year the Baltics could host the South-easterners. The people with the money were happy and called it international cooperation.
A small group of people from the cold Baltic region changed planes several times before finally arriving in a town called Dubrovnik in a country called Croatia. They saw how a civil war had done much damage to the buildings and heard that many people had been killed. The small group sat down together with film friends from this country and from many other places in south-eastern Europe, known as the Balkans to many. People with strange names came from countries with strange names like Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania – and they all thought that it was a good idea to make a festival with films from the Baltics and films from south-eastern Europe.
One of the people from the Baltics wrote the following about his trip:
”September 17, 2000
What a beautiful start for a festival! Whilst about 20 people were sitting around a table in a sunny Dubrovnik courtyard discussing the articles of the festival bylaws, a man and a woman were making love 25 meters away. I did not see this myself but was told so by one of my fellow Danes, who had a better view from where he was sitting. He said that he did not dare to share his unique sight with the other festival board members lest it break their concentration! But what a symbol of love and friendship for a festival in an area of Europe where hatred and conflicts have been the daily fare for a decade.
I feel great down here, Dubrovnik is wonderful. It has two outdoor cinemas and only one indoor. We will have a lot of technical work to do, but there is great passion for this initiative. Today we formed a board with filmmakers, festival organisers and film centre people, who decided to ask Ivan Paic from Croatia to become the director of ”SEE Docs in Dubrovnik”, the name of the festival. Ivan, who has organized a lot of film screening activities and festivals will work with people from Lazareti, a very active NGO, which organizes cultural events at this place near the rocks and the beautiful sea.
I am sure that many people think that this idea of combining films and film professionals from two regions is crazy. Actually I think that the four of us who represented the Baltic Media Centre on Bornholm at the meeting in Dubrovnik felt the same initial doubts. But the enthusiasm emanating from the festival board in Dubrovnik today convinced all of us that it is the right idea, even if it arose from politics and from a desire to help a region that longs for peace and stability. Documentary professionals need to get together, exchange ideas and be inspired by watching films together, and Dubrovnik is large enough to have a considerable local audience. I think that we can get all the key players in the European documentary sector to come down and share their expertise with new filmmakers. We got them to come to Bornholm… so why not next year in Dubrovnik and in year 2001 on Bornholm again? Fantastic.”