In Jean Renoir’s antiwar masterpiece La grande illusion (1937), Erich von Stroheim presents to cinema’s history one of its most remarkable charachters in terms of moral stature. Captain Von Rauffenstein is a German officer who, in the frame of WWI, runs a castle-turned-into-prisoners’ camp, having been forced to leave the frontline because of his infirmity. Raised as a soldier at the Prussian old school (with all that it implies, especially in terms of pride and respect), he’s defined on one side by the frustration he experiences for he’s been removed from the hot spot, on the other by the chivalrous attitude he has towards his enemies.
On the 8th edition of the anticommercial masterpiece Kino Otok, I’m afraid I’m presenting one of the most remarkable examples of misplacement. Asked to move from the hot spot to remain behind the lines (to be clear: from writing to help others writing), during these days I’ve sometimes experienced the feeling of the festival passing me by, just as Von Rauffenstein feels war is passing him by. And possibly it’s not just a personal feeling, as “you’re candidate n.1 for ‘Ghost of the festival’”, Vlado told me last night. But the notation hasn’t to do only with the geographical / physical aspect, it’s also a matter of “hyerarchical” role. As an amateur writer, I’ve never been trained at any (old, Prussian, whatever…) proper school, so it may prove hard trying to put your experience in some perspective and get a pattern out of it, not to mention the difficulty in understanding where the borders between providing guidance, teaching lessons and giving orders lie. Are you enjoying reading the Daily Otok blog? Have you liked the contents you’ve found on our brochures? Well, as novelists use to write in their thanksgiving notes, if you did it’s because of these guys’ work. If you didn’t, it’s because of me being their mentor. After all I feel like I still belong on the “learning side”, and they sure ain’t less skilled than I am. So I’m still not sure whether, now that the festival’s over, they may have reason to say they’ve got something from me.
Ph.: Blanca Selas Chao
But here comes a lesson from J.L. Guerin’s Guest: the value you place on your experience when you go to a festival – no matter the role you (are supposed to) fit – doesn’t rely only on what’s officially written on your accreditation. It’s also a matter of gathering, as Vlado said, and hanging around together, which means that the nights by the lighthouse have saved my days (in the office). After having come to an agreement with myself on not going to bed before 2 am, I’ve supplied beers and stories about the border, while enjoying hearing about their background and projects, listening to their own music, drinking their liqueurs, exchanging high fives with the guys, staring at the girls, dancing with both… and so on. So I hope that at least as far as human relationships are concerned, we can say we’re square.
And if we’re not…Well, Von Rauffenstein, after he’s had no choice but to kill the French officer who was trying to escape from the castle, pays homage to him by leaving a flower on his body. As I doubt I’ll have the time to go to a flower shop before we take leave of one another, I hope as many of these guys as possible will come back next year, not only for me to repay their expectations but also to get back spending some good time together.