Dear friends of all ages,
I am delighted to announce that Sibiu will be, once again this year, between the 16th and the 22nd of October, the meeting place for young and very young generations, eager, curious and enthusiastic to learn through film the most important and most fascinating things about the world we live in. As always, at Astra Film Junior, stories will be told, debates will be sparked, empathy and critical thinking will be exercised, and there will be much joy in the cinema halls and in the Dome installed in the Big Square, because we all will be together again: you – our young, beautiful and smart audiences –, your teachers who accompany you, and us, who welcome you to the first and largest media literacy program in our country.
We are looking forward to an extraordinary experience, with documentaries, immersive productions and new media technologies carefully selected for your age, thematic workshops and discussion sessions. The joy of seeing you again will be all the more exciting as Astra Film Junior will take place under the umbrella of an anniversary edition: it's been 30 years since we have been proposing to Sibiu and Romania a place where freedom, imagination, principles and awareness of one's own individuality are the most important qualities of a human being. I invite you to experience these things in the heart of Sibiu, where you belong: at your festival, a magical land, a fairytale place – literally and figuratively.
Look at the mountain peaks confidently thrusting themselves into the unknown infinity of the sky, indifferent to what is happening at their foot. Each unreachable peak is a promise that can be fulfilled. That's how Tsering, an 11-year-old boy learning to climb mountain peaks from his father, looks at them. He learns techniques, he listens to stories, he knows his father is always there for him, but he also knows that steep cliffs can only be tamed by effort. This is a thought-provoking image at a time when the challenges we face seem so great, and not just for the younger generation.
All the things that shake the world – war, poverty, discrimination – but also those that humanise us – the artistic spirit, friendship, caring – are reflected in Astra Film Junior programme.
In the 6+ film schoolbag we have prepared life stories of children who stand out for their creativity, responsibility and desire to learn. Alongside Tsering, we meet Pavel from Russia who, at just 11 years old, has his own charity project to care for stray animals. Or Kam from Thailand who, despite poverty, is fulfilling her dream of singing on stage. We'll be with Thorvin and Vilde from Norway when their school closes and they have to make new friends. We'll venture to Africa with Jimmy and Sabato, who learn to fish with a net to help their family. And in another corner of the world, Tom and Piet, two brothers from Germany, learn and discover the secrets of the environment together.
In the 11+ films we discover, for example, what it's like to live between two different geographical and cultural realities and what it's like to have a brother with a disability. Storm will show us how he documents in the Arctic to draw attention to the serious effects of global warming. Eva from Berlin starts a clean-up campaign in her neighbourhood, Valentin from Germany is passionate about film, Bogdan from Maramureș carries on the craft he learned from his family, and small explorers from Romania discover an unmarked mountain route on the Via Transilvanica for seven days.
In the 15+ high school programme, we'll find out what life is like for a group of teenagers at a famous Paris high school who are breaking down stereotypes through intense study and hip-hop, and follow a compelling history of the image – from the first photo to the video footage – and the two sides of these discoveries. We will also be able to analyse and debate topical issues such as food waste and ethics in the online environment through selected films.
Our most colourful project, the comic book contest, will again this year be a continuation of the viewing experience and a creative way of interpreting and analyzing the audiovisual content we watch, offering us an adventure of the imagination to create comic book stories based on given themes.
The "Profession: Educator" project, dedicated to teachers, includes a special screening of the fictional film "The Teachers' Lounge" (directed by Ilker Catak), presenting the story of a young teacher wants to help a student suspected of theft, but finds herself in the middle of several worlds (parents, fellow teachers, outraged students) and comes face to face with an entire system.
Astra Film Junior offers, this year again, a programme that brings together the vision of reality and fiction. It is an attempt to celebrate cinema as a place of reflection that defies the constraints of the present and opens up to a new perspective, a space that offers security and a glimpse of hope. At a time when there is enough to worry about, we look forward to watching films, welcoming our guests, taking part in debates and meeting you.
Let's all step on the magical land of the documentary film!
Dr. Dumitru Budrala, Founding Director of Astra Film