It’s been a fantastic few weeks! Can’t even being to say how much fun it has been screening The Summer Help in NYC and Moldova and having discussions about “work & travel.” Fascinating-and very different- discussions and different sides of the ocean.
NEW YORK CITY
The NY audience for the festival was packed with many people from different parts of my life (AUBG students, family, friends from way back) as well as people who were just interested in the topic of “work and travel” (or WAT, for short). The discussions were mostly about why Americans are so clueless about the student workers who surround them and take care of them on their vacations. At least for this audience, they now know more about some of the students and their motivation for being there. This audience told me that it’s hard not to respect and connect with Elena and Nikoleta (the main characters from Bulgaria) after meeting their families in the movie and seeing how hard they work and why.
It was also fun to share the night with two of my former students, Igor and Darya. Both were in the documentary briefly during their work & travel experiences, and now they are thriving in their post-AUBG and WAT life. Darya is in grad school in Rochester and Igor just finished a master program at the New School in documentary filmmaking. We also screened Igor’s short documentary “Life Through the Lens” a beautiful short about how he sees Blagoevgrad through his father’s film camera. Could not be more proud!
The Moldovan audience was very different. I didn’t know anyone at the Moldox International Film Festival in Cahul and the subtitles were a challenge in Romanian. I was worried that the audience didn’t understand. But in the Q & A, there was a tearful mother who thanked me for the movie and shared that her son will go on “work and travel” next summer. In a country where it is expected that many young people will go to America to work summer jobs to make money, she said now knows more what to expect. The moderator also asked the audience if, after seeing the movie, would the students there still want to go to “work & travel” in the U.S.? Almost all hands shot up as a yes. After the screening, the mother asked me for a hug and to pose for a photo with her and again thanked me. I told her not to worry– there are many good Americans who will look after her son and he will be okay.
On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised that the Moldovan Army soldiers came to see my movie. I still don’t know if they were told to come or if they wanted to come, but either way it was a nice addition to my memories from Cahul!
I also taught an advanced documentary workshop at the festival with some emerging filmmakers from around the country and I was really impressed with their stories and their commitment to their films. Topics include: the Godfather of Moldovan fashion industry who made women feel sexy for the first time and then disappeared; a psychiatrist from a mental institution who raped patients for many years; a box of 4000 photos found in a small village that reveals what daily life was really like during the Communist times; and a Modlovan woman who has a Soviet tank in her back yard and wants to make it the largest tourist attraction in the country! I was so proud of these students when they got up in front of the audience to “pitch” their projects during the closing ceremony! I am sure you will be hearing from these filmmakers in the future.
After the festival, I went to Chisinau and gave a few lectures and was in the media quite a bit talking about The Summer Help and the film festival. Special thanks to the American Embassy in Moldova for sponsoring my trip. It was truly a memorable experience.
Going on this journey of sharing the movie with audiences has been so fascinating for me. After teaching in Bulgaria for four years, I made a little piece of my heart. It’s not a blockbuster movie, but it turns out that it is touching people and starting conversations. That’s good enough for me!
It has been my privilege to share The Summer Help with all of you.
I will write in the next post about more screenings coming up in Georgia (Cinedoc Tblisi) and Bulgaria (SoIndependent Film Festival- I will attend!) in late October/early November. But for my Bulgarian friends, the dates for the screenings in Sofia are Oct. 29th and Nov. 5th…details to come very soon about location and tickets. I am working on details about a screening in Blagoevgrad during the week at AUBG as well. More to come. Can’t wait to finally share this film with Bulgaria!
Yours in Docs,
melody gilbert /documentary filmmaker/ www.frozenfeetfilm.com
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