An unexpectedly dry mid-October in an Oxford mildly affected by bird-flu terror, with the dramatic photo of a Romanian chicken on the cover of “Newsweek”. In a small restaurant, a woman dances while carrying a whole fried chicken adorned with colourful ribbons: it’s a Romanian wedding “hen dance” and the hen is part of a folk custom meant to secure the well-being of the newlyweds. “My hen from Bacau / was denied a visa in Heathrow,” sings the woman about the (frozen) Romanian chicken lost at the airport with the rest of her luggage and replaced at the last minute by a British, and incidentally organic, bird.
I’m starting with the chicken not only because it took place just a block away from an OXDOX venue but also because it points at the practices employed by diasporic communities to assert their mutating identities. Subtitled “Worlds in Transition” (here identified by the New Accession States), OXDOX was greatly focused on notions of identity, particularly given its position as a relatively young festival attempting to build its own tradition.
“European films are films produced in Europe and reflecting European values. These films are directed by European directors and are produced with European funding in order to be distributed in the countries of the new Europe,” states an EU official in Jan Gogola’s film from “Across the Border”. As a central issue of the “new Europe”, cultural identity sells. The past decade has seen a growing interest, from both commissioning/funding bodies and academic film studies, in films that visualise experiences of mobility, border-crossing and identity-hyphenation. Film scholars refer to a ‘cinema of duty’ emerging in areas where cultural policies become too abrupt and filmmakers are tempted to concentrate on representations meeting the priorities of the funding bodies.
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