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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 37: Acasa-The System and the eco-system

IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 37: Acasa-The System and the eco-system

“For 20 years, they, the family with nine children, lived in harmony amidst nature, in a place which was long-forgotten though it was close to the city. But fate had some other plans when the Romanian authorities initiated steps to award protection status to that area. My documentary Acasa – My Home portrays the journey of this family, who were forced to adopt city life after eviction from their cocoon in the wilderness. Being a journalist, I could have just made a report on them but instead, we followed their dramatic journey for four years and made this documentary.” These were the words of Romanian Director Radu Ciorniciuc on how the IFFI 51 film Acasa – My Home came to life. Radu Ciorniciuc was addressing a press conference at the 51st International Film Festival of India, in Panaji, Goa. The film, shot in Finland, Germany and Romania found a place in the Special Screening section of the festival.

Ciorniciuc revealed the string of events which culminated in the making of the documentary: “The Romanian government was about to give protection status to an area which was considered as landfill, in a city close to the capital, Bucharest. The move was made as the scientists found out that there was an incredible delicate ecosystem in the middle of this green space, and some of the rarest birds, animals and plants of Europe were found there.”

How come the family was found there?  As per Radu, once he and screenwriter Lina Vdovii decided to make a report on the decision of the government, they visited the place to get a first-hand understanding of the situation. What awaited them was a surprise. “A family of nine children was living there, isolated from the outside world for the last 20 years. There, we were fascinated by the harmonious relationship the children had with nature and we decided to do further research and not confine our project to a news report.”

Describing the whirlwind journey that followed, Radu added: “We spent the next four years following this family and in their dramatic journey from living in the wilderness to adopting to the life in the big city in the capital.”

Adding further, Radu said, “We could have made an exotic tabloid story out of this but that could have harmed the family, rather than drawing attention to the issues they were facing.”

Radu said he would like to dedicate the film to Gică Enache, who passed away recently, and the main real-life character based on whom the documentary has been made.

Screenwriter, Lina Vdovi, also a journalist, said, "We realised this story was a lot bigger than any TV reportage or long-form article I had written before. That's when we decided to focus on this family and follow their journey. The writing process in documentaries may be different, but I'm in awe with the work involved in this film."

“We fell in love with the Enache family, their naiveté, optimism and innocence. They reminded us of our own childhood and how we grew up surrounded by nature and the deep connection we had with nature around us.”

Adding to this Radu said, “After making this film, we too decided to move out of the city, that’s how the movie has had an impact on our life as well.”

While asked about finding balance between journalism and film making, Radu observed: “These professions are quite complementary. I realised a while ago that truth can have different forms. There is a journalistic truth and a more dramatic truth which is something we think we have achieved through our documentary. Film-making opened up a world of so many possibilities for telling life, the truth, which is amazing. We have tried to keep this documentary as real as possible,” he said. According to Radu, this project was an escape from the complexities of the journalistic profession, something which they were longing for years.

When making a documentary on such a journey, that it’s not unusual to have real-time challenges. “The challenge was that we had to keep just a very small crew to reach out and develop a connection and intimacy with the family; a bigger crew would have spoiled the production.”

The documentary made its official entry to some of the renowned film festivals worldwide, including Zürich, Sundance and Sydney.

Director Radu Ciorniciuc has co-founded the first independent media organisation in Romania - Casa Jurnalistului, in 2012, a community of reporters specialising in in-depth, long-form and multimedia reporting. He has been working as a long-form writer and undercover investigative reporter. His researches are focused on human rights, animal welfare and environmental issues across the globe. His work was published by most of the major international media organisations in the world: The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Channel 4 News. He is also a recipient of many national and international awards.

About Acasa –My Home

For the last two decades, the Enache family lived in the Bucharest’s Delta, an immense green space in which wildlife has become a rare urban ecosystem. Following the rhythm of the seasons, they live a simple life isolated from society. But their peace is soon to be over: no longer able to escape social services and pressured by the municipality, they are forced to move to the city and learn to conform to the rules of society.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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