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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Lindsay Harrop at 7:01PM
Still from Bastards of Utopia

Blog posting written by Lindsay Harrop, Cinema & Photography '13, FLEFF Intern, McMinnville, Oregon

Can you believe that FLEFF week is halfway over? But there are still a ton of screenings and events to come - especially downtown at Cinemapolis!

One of these films is Bastards of Utopia, which will be screening at Cinemapolis Sunday, April 17 at 4:00pm, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Maple Razsa. I recently had the opportunity to ask Maple some pre-festival questions. If you're interest is piqued - and I know mine is - then be sure to come to Cinemapolis to see the film and ask Maple some questions of your own!

LH: What originally drew you to studying Yugoslavia? And after the collapse, what made you seek out (or how did you discover) the individual subjects of the Bastards of Utopia?

MR: I’ve been traveling and researching in Croatia and the former-Yugoslavia for almost twenty years, since I was an exchange student in high school in 1990-1991.  Originally I went, in part, because I was curious to see what a communist state looked like first hand. Later I became involved in labor and globalization activism in the USA and so I was seeking out ways to combine my interests in activism and my interest in Croatia in my next project. While I was wrestling with these questions I was invited by friends to go to the big globalization protests in Genoa in 2001.  I was surprised to find that the train from Trieste, Italy had a few dozen activists from Croatia.  That’s when I first met the anarchists that I’d work with in making Bastards of Utopia

LH: What were some of the difficulties with having such political extremists as your central subjects?

MR: They forced me to ask some hard questions of myself: Was I living in accordance with my own political values? Was I contributing to struggles against injustice?

LH: How do you connect your dual roles as anthropologist and documentary filmmaker?

MR: During my anthropological fieldwork I collaborated with a variety of activist groups of quite different orientations, not only the militant and anarchist-punk scene that came to be at the center of Bastards of Utopia.  We chose to make a film about this scene, and these three activists in particular, because more than any others I met, they were willing to remake their everyday lives on the basis of their ethical and political principles.  Because both Pacho (my co-director) and I are commited to observational filmmaking, we felt this made them the most compelling subjects.  Beyond this ethnographic interest in the everyday aspects of life, we were also committed to long term fieldwork, to really getting to know the people and context we were filming, rather than the quick and dirty journalistic approach (no offense!).  So the film took a long time to make—220 hours of footage shot and edited over 7 years.

LH: How did you choose FLEFF as a venue for the film?

MR: Ithaca College professor Chip Gagnon, who also does research in the former Yugoslavia, learned of my film and brought Bastards of Utopia to the attention of the festival. In any case, I've heard good things about FLEFF for years so I was happy to be invited to screen my documentary.

Thanks to Maple for taking the time to talk to me. Bastards of Utopia promises to be a really great documentary. I look forward to seeing everyone at the screening Sunday!


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