Festival organizers are well aware of the fact that preparations for a new festival edition begin immediately after the previous one has ended, if not sooner. The Ethnographic Museum is working hard not only on creating the program of the next, 33rd IFEF, but on many important changes in the festival format which will make it better and more attractive for the audiences.


Despite all the changes, the festival will remain faithful to all that which makes it special and unique. One of the guests of the last edition was James Deutsch, curator at the Smithsonian institution in Washington DC, who got acquainted with the festival over a decade ago, when the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage presented its films within the special programs. This time around, Deutsch was in a “friendly visit”, with a desire to return to our festival after a long period of time. Because of his earlier experiences he was especially able to see for himself in what ways the festival has changed, and in what others did it remain true to itself. Attending all screenings, Deutsch was able to adequately evaluate this year’s program:


-Back in 2012, I presented at the Festival of Ethnological Film one film prepared by my colleagues from the Smithsonian Institute, where I am one of the curators, and I kept my contacts with people from the Ethnographic Museum, so I am back to Belgrade this year. I also visited other festivals presenting ethnological or ethnographic films, but my greatest impression of this festival is its diversity. It includes films from 26 countries on most diverse topics. I particularly like the motto of this year’s festival “Life – just like in the movies”. I work at the Center within the Smithsonian Institute which was established in 1846, which is not a long time by your standards but for us in the USA it is very much so. It was founded with the goal of promoting and increasing the diversity of learning new things, and we take that task very seriously. More precisely, the first main task of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is to build understanding, the second is to strengthen the communities and the third is to increase the exchange of knowledge. All these three tasks are actually united at this festival.


Did any work in this year’s selection leave a special impression on you?

- During the course of the festival, I saw films from Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Georgia, the USA, New Zealand, Nepal, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Portugal, India, Peru, Spain, and in a certain way they all promote humanism. There were some impressive films that delve deep into the structure of a culture and present its members in a way that enables us, as the audience, to truly relate to the presented persons and connect to their problems. For example, the film from Madagascar, made by the Spanish author Samuel Pastor and named “Kambana” speaks about the fear of twins. The community in northern Madagascar presented in the film has a belief, which I knew nothing about, that twins are a sign of bad luck. The author talked to the mothers of twins, who expressed their fears and anxieties imposed by the environment, the community that fears their sons, and presented it in a touching way. The power of film to stir the feelings and convey ideas is evident in this festival.


More than a decade has passed between your two visits to this festival. How do you rate the Festival of Ethnological Film?

- Apart from the fact that this year’s selection includes a greater number of films, I got the impression that the Festival constantly stays on the course it set for itself, to document the ethnological and anthropological material, to record the traditional culture from around the World. I got the impression that the organizers constantly strive to promote the exchange of intercultural heritage and bring as many authors as possible, to share their work with the audience, as well as with the curators, professionals and journalists, in order to spread the better understanding of diversity. The thirty-two years of tradition of this festival testify that the organizers have succeeded in their goal.


Are you referring to audience in Belgrade?

- At the yesterday’s screening at 4 PM the venue was full, it was difficult to find an empty seat in the cinema hall, and this testifies to the audience’s thirst for understanding other cultures.


How well did you manage to get to know Serbia?

- I am fascinated by your history. When I used to live in Bulgaria as a researcher, I often heard people mention “the five centuries of slavery under Turks” in the Balkans, and I understand that the same holds here. I was in Niš, I saw Ćele kula, I toured through the northern Serbia, I cooperated with Culture Center in Grocka, I look forward to knowing the diversity of your culture. The mixture of Orthodox faith, Catholicism, Muslim faith and a strong Jewish community reminds me of the diversity we have in USA. In her film included in this festival, Sara Marković portrayed the Serbian diaspora in USA, which is distributed throughout the States, not only in Chicago and Cleveland or Los Angeles or Boston. It is not always easy to live in such mixed communities, there are conflicts, there are challenges, but this Festival of Ethnological Film helps us understand that different cultures are actually not that much different. We are all connected by humanism, and when we understand that and connect to each other’s problems through the screen, it is a step toward being brought together instead of being separated.


Olivera Stojimirović